- Despite the existence of a number of technology innovations in the agricultural sector, notes Macharia, the targeted audience has not been successfully reached.
The young man browses his computer with the keenness of a doctor in a theatre room, as he intermittently types on the keyboard.
Joseph Macharia, an extension officer, is responding to comments posted on his agriculture website known as Mkulima Young.
“We get a lot of comments on Facebook, Twitter and on our website. I feel bad when I fail to respond to the queries that is why I must answer all of them,” says Macharia.
Mkulima Young is an information technology platform on agriculture, which Macharia set up in January last year.
“The idea to set up the platform came when I was at home with nothing to do after my contract with the organisation I was working for expired,” recalls Macharia, who has a degree in Extension and Information Services from Egerton University.
He set up the website to reach out to farmers and assist them for free.
“I wanted to give people relevant information. I also wanted to engage the youth. This could only be done best using technology. Youth want to farm but using technology,” adds Macharia.
Despite the existence of a number of technology innovations in the agricultural sector, notes Macharia, the targeted audience has not been successfully reached.
“Mkulima Young addresses challenges encountered by young farmers. There have been several interventions, which people have tried to come up with as ways to engage youth through technology. But when you have the website, you should ask yourself, where do I get the young people? Most of the time they are on social media, specifically Facebook,” recounts Macharia.
He first launched a Facebook page called Mkulima Farmer, which flopped. But realising his mistake, he rebranded it to appeal to youth. He changed the name to Mkulima Young, which the youth identified with as it translates to a young farmer.
He took advantage of his extensive knowledge in agriculture to offer farmers free information. He then went on to add success stories of young farmers doing various projects.
“People love it when they see someone else excel,” he says. The page has become a hit online, attracting hundreds of viewers from Kenya and around the world. Overwhelmed, Macharia turned the Facebook page into a website to accommodate the growing demand.
“We realised we were offering information on farming, but what about market for products?” he posed.
Mkulima Young delivers information on crops and livestock farming, inspiring stories from young farming champions and a place to sell and buy produce.
“We don’t set prices. We want farmers to do it themselves. When you go to places like Marikiti or other fresh produce markets, and someone tells you this is the cost of a bag of potatoes, you often ask who sets the price? It’s the brokers,” says Macharia.
He works on the website part-time, as he has a fulltime job. Often, he goes through the site at 4am and late in the evening.
“The challenge is that farmers think I have every answer, but the good thing is that there are other users who I have never met who also help to respond to questions,” says 38- year-old.
He has a team of five young people, including an information technology expert to support him.
Most users of the site are 25 to 34 years old, according to Google survey. Some 54.2 per cent are male while 45.9 per cent are female.