When Kenyan farmers seek each other’s advice, a simple WhatsApp conversation might be enough to exchange all the information needed. Through apps like these and social media networking sites, Kenyan farmers and agriculture experts interact and solve problems as they seek to boost food production in the east African nation.
The platform has become an easiest way to fill the gap created by the low number of agricultural extension officers across the east African country amid boom in small-scale farming and smartphone use. And thanks to the growing number of the social media farming groups, farmers are getting their problems solved in real time, unlike in the past when they would wait for days for the extension officer to arrive on the farm.
“You cannot be a farmer today and expect better harvest without belonging to a WhatsApp group,” said one of these farmers. “This is where the real conversation about farmers and farming is happening today.”
Another farmer, noted that it is also easier to know what other farmers are doing across the country through the social media platform: “As a farmer, you cannot operate in a vacuum hoping that what you are doing is the best. By being in the group, you learn the happenings in the industry especially if there is an outbreak of diseases.”
Similarly, in crop WhatsApp groups, farmers are enquiring from agronomists about pests and diseases, getting markets, how to grow various crops, fertilizer application and certified seeds.
Besides planting horticultural crops like tomatoes, beetroots, potatoes, capsicums, onions, mushroom, and butternuts, some of them in greenhouses using drip irrigation system, Kenyan farmers are also keeping rabbits, dairy cows, goats, sheep and chickens.
Social media networks should be a modern day farmer’s friend, according to Eric Ogumo, the chairman of the Society of Crop Agribusiness Advisor, since this is the place producers not only network but also interact with experts.