YoBloCo: more than just raising youth awareness

I have just realized how much effective blogging can help us achieve fostering agricultural transformation. In few days from now, Rwanda’s agro-processing would get another boost – and surely this blog will have played a great role.

Capture of my Blog

Capture of my Blog

Four days ago, when I woke up early morning, I saw a new email from a gentleman based in Ottawa-Canada. The man, who is evidently an investor, wrote: “I got your contact while researching on agribiz… I wanted to get in contact and exchange and maybe, also get guidance from someone with your experience,” reads part of the email.

He went on saying: “My aim is to install a small plant (from South Africa) 3-4 tons per hour, producing maize flour and other by-products. I will travel to Kigali by the end of May for 4 weeks and would like to see if a meeting can be set up,” the main part of the email concluded. “I warmly hope to meet you soon somewhere in Kigali.” That’s how I ended my reply.

And when I checked quickly my Blogstat, I realized that someone based in Canada had just viewed more than 20 of my blogposts. Then I could establish a relationship between the message I received and the posts viewed: most of the posts viewed were the ones I wrote on the need of agro-processing in my country, Rwanda [samples of the posts can be viewed here first, second].

Then, I tried to make simple calculations and realized that a plant installed with capacity to process 3-4 tons per hour will be a huge investment to my country: not only attracting foreign investment(thousands of dollars), but also contributing to agricultural value addition.

There is no doubt that if the plan gets materialized, local maize growers will get ready market for their produce, in addition to accessing quality processed maize flour near them. The email made it clear that the investor wants to venture into maize flour, but also other by-products. Maybe animal feeds make part of the other products; it came abruptly into my mind. If so, we can say ‘a boost to agricultural value chain development.’

Think about a great number of people who will find jobs at the plant – most of them young people, I guess! And I could make a long list of development activities that a certain number of rural Rwandan farmers could get, thanks to the time I took to highlight some investment needs and opportunities in agriculture. It was really an amazing morning!

This is what I really wanted to see happening when I decided to create this blog.

Coming back to the philosophy behind the YoBloCo Competition, I have to remind that by initiating the competition, the “Agriculture, Rural Development and Youth in the Information Society (ARDYIS Project)”, wanted to achieve its mandate to “raise youth awareness and capacity on agricultural and rural development issues in ACP countries through ICTs.”

From my recent experience, I can say that the philosophy behind this initiative is something more than raising youth awareness; as the described experience has proven it.

Yes, the platform can be used to raise youth awareness, yes it can encourage youth to express their agriculture-related issues, successes and challenges, but I also see that it ultimately has high potential to connect young farmers with potential investors who can become partners and possibly bring in resources; given that access to agriculture finance has been a great challenge for many (young) farmers.

Imagine what would be the impact if there was at least one person blogging about activities of each farming cooperative he/she belongs to (given that the government has been pushing a lot so that farmers can join cooperatives as a way of facilitating capacity building, but also to allow them express their views together).

Underexploited opportunity

But again, I wondered what would happen to Rwanda’s agriculture if we had hundreds of young people blogging on agriculture-related issues, but it’s not yet the case. For this particular YoBloCo competition, I only saw two entries from Rwanda (mine inclusive). This was underexploited opportunity!

Is there any possibility to increase young people’s interest to do so? Is the environment conducive in Rwanda? The answer is yes.

One Laptop Per Child

Primary school children with their OLPC laptops in class (Internet photo)

Primary school children with their OLPC laptops in class (OLPC photo)

Briefly, I would not be mistaken to say that Rwanda is among African countries that are counting a lot on ICT potential for their better future. Even little Rwandan children are being introduced to ICT tools: through One Laptop Per Child Program, schoolchildren touch computers from their first day of primary school one. By the end of 2012, 210,000 laptops had been deployed to more than 400 schools across the country. And most of these children come from farming families. Even those whose parents are not farmers, obviously their uncles or grandfathers are farmers – hence a great connection to farm realities.

Schoolgoing girl with a laptop in her rural neighborhood (Internet photo)

Schoolgoing girl with a laptop in her rural neighborhood (OLPC photo)

Then, even though I’m not a teacher, I guess that one of the best methodological approaches to be effective in introducing these ICT tools to children from farming background, would be to use agriculture-related examples for better understanding. Otherwise, I don’t think, let’s say, examples on drones will be the best ones! Obviously these little children would grow easily and rapidly their interests in the new tools and in agriculture. They would become the best “kinds of hybrids.” For sure something big could come out of this interest.

Well, I can talk and talk a lot on this topic. But to conclude this piece, let me note that engaging youth in agriculture issues with means of ICTs seems to be the quickest way of achieving information society among farming communities, and as many of you would argue, once you have easy access to information, you’ve got power to improve your livelihoods significantly and get out of poverty. Then, initiatives such as YoBloCo prove to be on the right way.

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