By Shubhalakshmi Bhattacharya
Social Media and its impact on agriculture in Kiambu County
The basic information needs for farmers are market information prices, weather forecasts, transport facilities and information on storage facilities. This first type of data is, although vital and of concern to the farmer, quickly outdated and changes constantly. The second level of information needed is about crop and cattle diseases, fertilizers. The third level is more context and local specific and requires the direct interface between the extension worker and the farmer. The information concerning improved agro-technologies generated by agricultural scientists and researchers must be disseminated in ways that are compatible with the needs of farmers and result in the satisfaction of end users of that information. Agricultural information is necessary to reach farmers and agriculturists in order to meet their needs. If farmers, for example, have access to relevant agricultural information, food shortages may be eradicated. Such information is crucial to their farming activities and impacts on household food security. Understanding farmers’ information needs help in designing appropriate policies, programs, and organizational innovations Farmers constantly manage and adapt their farm businesses in order to remain competitive in a changing world. This is done by among other ways, fine-tuning existing practices and technologies or by adopting innovations, such as novel products, technologies or practices. In case of a presence of a number of alternatives, it is necessary for the farmer to choose which innovation, or suite of innovations, will provide the most benefit and best meet the needs of the farm business. This decision is known as a complex decision and complex decision making requires the collection of a range of information from a number of sources. As individuals, farmers have their favored information sources, which they use depending on the specific information being sought. De state that a two-way process enables farmers to share lessons and best practices related to their farm enterprise, thus incorporating their knowledge base as well. Social media is increasingly being used as a medium for sharing information and creating awareness. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs have been used to engage with various audiences. The users generate and shape the content. Social media strengths are complementing traditional media in facilitating the shaping of content. Social media is accessed using ICT channels like mobile phones and computers.
Users of social media have access to platforms such as Mkulima Young, Young Farmers Market, Digital Farmers Kenya and Mkulima Hub Kenya. These social media platforms are able to provide information to farmers and those interested in farming and agricultural matters. These platforms have a multitude of applications, the two most important being that they educate and inform on agricultural matters and they also facilitate in the buying and selling of agricultural produce and other related products. The users can also communicate with each other by exchanging information and discussing issues concerning agriculture based on both experience and knowledge. The users also buy and sell agricultural produce and inputs and in order to facilitate this, they use pictures, links and videos. This sharing of information facilitates the marketing of the farmers produce and the formation of networks. The social media platforms are also used to share links, news articles, information, feedback and queries.
Another important step was taken by agricultural institutions by incorporating social media into their information systems. An example of this is the Agricultural Information Resource Centre has created profiles on YouTube and Facebook and it also runs its own blog. However, these inventive steps have not been incorporated by many institutions as they have not fully embraced Web 2.0 as a tool for disseminating information. The MoA (Ministry of Agriculture) uses YouTube to disseminate videos about events at their institution. These were seen to be isolated cases of using tools such as Facebook, blogs and Skype by researchers at the individual level. A generalisation, however, could not be established if such tools were being used to share research information. Agricultural programs are using social media to engage audiences and obtain feedback. An instance of this is programs like Shamba Shape Up on Citizen Television and the pull out seeds of gold, in the Saturday Nation have social media platforms. Mkulima Young a radio program on Coro Fm also obtains its feedback on the Mkulima Young social media platforms.
Overall also social media has a huge impact on economic development. An example of this can be looked at through the city of Lompoc which now has its own social media accounts on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. While there were various city departments and organisations that had already started implementing and using social media as a part of their strategy, social media has now become an official tool used by the City to effectively communicate with the citizens of the community. The Economic Development Committee of the city recognized the importance of the role that social media played and in order to increase publicity for their efforts, it created joined Facebook in 2013, almost immediately after the committee was created. The committee experienced success from the forefront in relaying information about their efforts and goals to the public. Moreover, in 2016 the City of Lompoc hired a community relations manager/public information officer, Samantha Scroggin, and has since been able to implement a social media policy for the City of Lompoc. The policy contains a set of practices and procedures that have been adopted by the city that will aid in the maintenance of its social media sites.
Social media, as this paper has shown, is an incredible tool in order to gather and share information directly with each other and thereby facilitate the making of quick decisions. Due to its convenience and the ability of users to create new information and update and modify already present information, it has become a tool used by many and has grown in its popularity and continues to grow as well. It is because of these reasons that it has a huge impact on economic growth and development as the users are able to access all the information required easily and make decisions that are more profitable in nature.
Shubhalakshmi Bhattacharya is a third-year student of BA.LLB at Jindal Global Law School.
- Kuria Catherine Wangu, ‘USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA AS A SOURCE OF AGRICULTURAL INFORMATION BY SMALL HOLDER FARMERS; A CASE STUDY OF LOWER KABETE, KIAMBU COUNTY’ (Master of Arts, University of Nairobi 2014).
- Social Media’s Role In Economic Development’ (Lompoc Record, 2017) <http://lompocrecord.com/business/local/social-media-s-role-in-economic-development/article_92ca7291-e01e-58e3-a227-cd763a6627a3.html> accessed 17 March 2018.