The exploitation of social media in agriculture has transformed Kwanda Nyanzeka into a go-to source for a new generation of farmers. Its Facebook group, Agriculture & Young, has nearly 40,000 people just three months after its creation.
Nyanzeka, 24, is from Ntabankulu in the Eastern Cape. Despite a law degree, he is especially passionate about agriculture.
He tells Food For Mzansi: “I wanted to document the stories of small farmers, especially in rural areas, on my YouTube channel so that young people have a dedicated online platform that would inspire them and teach them about agriculture. I was also inspired by Wode Maya, a Ghanaian YouTuber who covers amazing stories in Africa and changes the perception of the world.
Zolani Sinxo: So your family grew livestock, chickens and vegetable crops. But let’s talk about the relationship between agriculture and social networks, especially to reach young people. How it all started and why agriculture in particular?
Kwanda Nyanzeka: I want to change the perception that only the elderly and uneducated can cultivate. I want to prove that young people can also be farmers, if they want to. For example, I have a law degree and I am passionate about agriculture because agriculture is life.
I also noticed that [many] young farmers fail due to a lack of entrepreneurial skills. Using the platforms I created, my goal is to develop small farmers to be entrepreneurs too. Through Agriculture & Young, we help them register their businesses with CIPC. We also share funding information on our YouTube channel and successful entrepreneurs are sharing lessons that could help young farmers.
Do you really believe that social media can attract young people to agriculture?
Social media is a powerful tool when used correctly. He plays a huge role in getting young people to do things. They tend to be interested in things that are popularized on social media. When I created a Facebook agriculture group three months ago, over 35,000 members joined. Most of them were young people who recently took an interest in farming. This proves that social media is a big influencer in this regard.
What are these farmers telling you about the biggest challenges they face?
Young farmers face many challenges. Most important is access to land, capital and markets. On the other hand, there are young people in rural areas who have agricultural land, but they do not use it because there is no access to water, and the drilling of boreholes is expensive. In addition, many young people want to start farming but the problem of capital prevents them from doing so. So I encourage young people to start with what they have and gradually grow as they learn.
Another challenge is the issue of market access. For example, a young farmer from Limpopo told me that he produces spinach and that he has no market to sell his products. Local stores only buy small quantities, leaving him with too much product to waste. I think that by showcasing their work on my social platforms, businesses and buyers can see the wonderful work they do.
Food For Mzansi represents the new face of South African agriculture. We believe that our future food security depends on the efforts of a new generation. Is this an opinion that you share?
Yes, a lot of young people are starting to take an interest in agriculture. I am thinking of a farmer from Bizana, in the Eastern Cape, who started farming during the [Covid-19] confinement in 2020. It now supplies Spar and Boxer stores. I had an interview with him on my YouTube channel and the video now has over 5,000 views.
The interview was also acknowledged by celebrity chef Siba Mtongana. She posted on her Instagram and Facebook pages and encouraged her followers to watch the interview. The link to the video is now available on its website. The interview was also praised by Makwande Gcora, the founder of Makwande Chemicals which has 27,000 followers on LinkedIn. When celebrities and influencers share farmer stories on social media, young people start to take an interest in them.
What is the impact of social media on agriculture today?
Social media has a positive role in agricultural marketing. The use of blogs, microblogs, [Facebook] pages and groups have a positive impact. It enables young farmers to create communities where they share their knowledge and skills. This saves farmers time and money to obtain information.
YouTube videos are also used to get information about agriculture. For example, rooftop farmer Khaya Maloney, founder of Afrileap, said he got all the information about hydroponics from YouTube.
WhatsApp is also a useful platform. Farmers create groups where they share information related to agriculture and sell their products to potential customers. In addition, agricultural government officials such as ministers also have their pages, blogs, and channels that help people get information.
However, older farmers are struggling to embrace social media as a marketing tool. Some farmers are less confident when it comes to buying and selling agricultural products online on social media.
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