The Rise of the ‘Google’ Farmer

Last week, I attended and spoke at the 1st African Conference on Edible Insects in Harare, Zimbabwe. During one of the tea breaks, I got chatting with an enthusiastic female farmer:

“So, how did you learn about black soldier fly farming?” I asked.

“I’m a ‘Google’ farmer,” she procalimed with a toothy grin.

Despite never having heard the term before, I got it immediately.

If you’re new to the field of insect farming for food or for animal feed, there is one important thing that you must understand: this is an emerging field. This means that there is no one way to do things. Everyone is experimenting within their own contexts.

This means that extension agents or Ministries of Livestock have no idea about how advise farmers on how to rear mini livestock. It’s just too new. Many farmers, prospective entrepreneurs and laypeople throughout Africa hear about insect farming on the radio or in the newspaper. They become curious and want to learn more. Where do you look for information? Google!

According to a 2018 report by GSMA, more than half the population of Sub-Saharan Africa will be subscribed to a mobile service by 2025.

Sub-Saharan Africa has been the world’s fastest-growing mobile region in recent years

What’s the take-home message? This post is really a shout out to those of us who are want to communicate about new agricultural innovations to the new breed of ‘Google’ farmers from Angola to Zambia. Here are some points to consider:

  • Give serious thought about who you are communicating to and what their needs are
  • Dedicate time and resources to developing resources that are easy to access on a smartphone or other kind of device
  • Remember that you are competing with many others for the farmer’s/entrepreneur’s attention. How will you set yourself apart?
  • Design your content so that it can be easily shared on locally-appropriate social media platforms
  • If you are trying to reach newcomers to the digital world, consider how they would best like to have the information delivered to them. Is it a step by step video? is it an audio file? Is it through a platform?
  • Work with local communications professionals to understand what it takes to make information go viral
  • Remember that tech alone won’t change the lives of farmers. Consider how your communications strategy complements your overall outreach strategy and theory of change

Leave a comment if you have any tried and tested methods of digitally communicating new technologies to farmers/entrepreneurs.

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