Supporting Youth and Agriculture through ICTs: a message from the e-Agriculture Team
Agriculture is one of the most ancient and basic productive sectors of human activity, yet young farmers around the world have been exposed to tremendous barriers in starting a farming career. Now, due to the use of information and communication technologies (ICT), they are finding amazing opportunities for development. We feel it is important to get involved in a community that works – by youth and for youth – to generate awareness on this issue. This is why we are proud to be a part of e-Agriculture.
Compelling projections shows us that food availability will need to rise by 60% by 2050, which means that food production and storage need to be increased significantly. Farmers can be affected by physical isolation in a world that demands more value-added agricultural products. Since regional and global agricultural value chains are becoming more integrated, farmers have to look for ways to be more global. Many experiences throughout the world show that the average age of a farmer is around 50-60 years old. Consequently, if young farmers do not replace the current producers, the food production will be seriously affected by 2050.
In this context, ICT itself can be an answer. According to UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU), there were 4.6 billion mobile phone subscriptions globally by the end of 2009, two-thirds of them in the developing world. Nowadays, mobile phones are the most widespread technology, able to reach a larger number of people in the developing world than any other new technology. The mobile phone expansion in the developing world has been surprising, due to ease of network expansion, cheaper relative costs, high demand and willingness of companies to invest, PCs were never successful in this way.
Evidence is mounting that ICTs in general, and mobile telephony in particular, can benefit the young farmersand integrate them into local, regional and global markets. Fortunately, young farmers are likely to be open to explore new ways of doing agriculture and continue to develop the sector with enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit. In this respect, ICTs are effective tools that can support bottom-up economic development and empower young people by encouraging action and innovation, as well as giving them potential platforms to express themselves. It is in this sense that ICTs play a central role for the future of agriculture:
– They attract youth, make agriculture more appealing for young people giving them voice and helping them build their own opinions;
– They inform young farmers about relevant and current information for their daily work, like market prices;
– They connect young farmers to other people interested in the field – from other young farmers to professionals, experts, etc. – in order to discuss, design, and develop innovative ways to use ICT itself in agriculture.
In this sense, we firmly believe in the important role young farmers have for the agricultural development and food security. We consider ICTs – mobile phones in particular – as effective tools that can contribute to that process. From this platform we work to deliver the message, knowing that there is a community of young people like us, who want to be aware of this reality and hope that by sharing successful cases of young farmers using ICTs, we can help tackle the main barriers they face.
By Andrea Jiménez and Carlo Angelico