By Ben Haagsma
As from beginning of 2012 ICT applications have been introduced in different Value Chains in Western Kenya in order to stimulate access to markets, to make better informed decisions on marketing and to improve the performance of Value Chains for smallholders. IICD, as the member of the Dutch Connect4Change consortium, promoted this ICT application in Value Chains and it trained the staff of the three key implementing NGOs in Kisumu, Kakamega and Eldoret; three ICCO partners who form a consortium in value chains.
The first preliminary results highlighted a surprising phenomenon: older farmers claimed that this ICT application had motivated the youth to invest much more in farming. This conspicuous statement led to the formulation of an exploratory research, which was implemented by FSAS (Ben Haagsma) and E-Solutions Africa (Henry Kimathi) at these three Kenyan organisations.
The main research topics consisted of 1) understanding the motivations of young people to invest in farming; 2) the role of ICT in this motivation; 3) the background of these young persons; 4) appreciation of the added value of ICT in Value Chains, and 5) the changing role of youth as a result of ICT introduction. The research was exploratory in nature, intended to get a first reasonably credible picture of the linkage between the use of ICT and the increased interest of young persons to invest in farming. In all three places small groups of young persons (male and female, single and married) were interviewed as well as older farmers and leaders, government extension staff and NGO staff (including the ICT officers).
The main findings of these different discussions and meetings were consistently pointing at the following results:
- ICT application indeed increased the motivation of young persons in farming, as the use of ICT improved yield levels and qualities, farm planning and market prices. ICT meant a direct access to modern technical farming practices, to improved varieties and market prices.
- Young persons dare to take more risks in farming, applying modern techniques, as ICT also improves cost-benefits record keeping and calculations.
- Young persons are increasing their social status in their communities, training other and older persons in ICT, and are requested to take up more responsible functions in farmer organisations.
- Government extension workers now consider young persons as their entry points in farming community instead of the older farmers. Young persons are considered more innovative. They increase the scope of extension workers.
- The use of ICT is very diverse: web-based search for market info; access to technical expert services, platform for text messaging to farmers; video clips uploaded on computers, voice messaging in local languages, etc.
- So far there is a definitive gender dimension: boys are getting more chances in applying ICT on their farms than girls. This ICT use by girls is more seen in specific Value Chain steps (processing, producer organisations) and/or jobs outside farming. This still requires more attention.
The three implementing organisations will adapt their internal Monitoring & Evaluation systems to follow these dynamics more closely and increase their insights. Based on these findings IICD produced a publication on this topic.