Harnessing social media in agriculture has transformed Kwanda Nyanzeka into a go-to source for a new generation of farmers. His Facebook group, Agriculture & Young, has close to 40 000 people just three months since it was established.
The 24-year-old Nyanzeka hails from Ntabankulu in the Eastern Cape. Despite having a law degree, he is most passionate about farming.
He tells Food For Mzansi, “I wanted to document the stories of small-scale farmers, especially in rural areas, on my YouTube channel so that young people would have a dedicated, online platform that would inspire and teach them farming. I was also inspired by Wode Maya, a Ghananian YouTuber who covers amazing stories in Africa and changes the world’s perception.”
Zolani Sinxo: So, your family farmed with cattle, chickens and vegetable crops. But let’s chat about the relationship between agriculture and social media, especially to reach young people. How did it all start and why farming, specifically?
Kwanda Nyanzeka: I want to change the perception that only old and uneducated people can farm. I want to prove that young people can be farmers too, if they wanted to. For example, I have a law degree and I am passionate about farming because farming is life.
I’ve also noticed that [many] young farmers fail due to a lack of entrepreneurial skills. Using the platforms that I have created, my aim is to develop small-scale farmers to also be entrepreneurs. Through Agriculture & Young, we assist them to register their businesses with CIPC. We also share funding information on our YouTube channel and successful entrepreneurs share lessons that could assist young farmers.
Do you really believe that social media can attract young people to farming?
Social media is a powerful tool when utilised correctly. It plays a huge role in influencing young people to do things. They tend to be interested in things that are popularised in social media. When I created an agriculture Facebook group three months ago, over 35 000 members joined. Most of them were young people who recently took an interest in agriculture. This proves that social media is a big influencer in this regard.
What do these farmers tell you about the greatest challenges they face?
There are many challenges that young farmers face. The biggest is access to land, capital and markets. On the other hand, there are young people in rural areas that have farming land, but they are not using it because there is no access to water, and drilling boreholes are expensive. Also, many young people want to start farming but the issue of capital is preventing them. I, therefore, encourage young people to start with what they have and gradually grow while learning in the process.
The issue of access to markets is another challenge. For example, a young farmer from Limpopo was telling me that he produces spinach and doesn’t have a market to sell his produce. Local stores only buy small quantities, leaving him with too much produce going to waste. I think by showcasing their work on my social platforms, businesses and buyers can see the wonderful work they are doing.
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 a view you share?
Yes, many young people are starting to take interest in agriculture. I think of a farmer from Bizana, Eastern Cape who started farming during the [Covid-19] lockdown in 2020. He 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 also got recognition from 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 her website. The interview also got recognition from Makwande Gcora, the founder of Makwande Chemicals who has 27 000 followers on LinkedIn. When celebrities and influencers share the stories of farmers using social media, young people start to take an interest.
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 allows young farmers to build communities where they share knowledge and skills. It saves time and cost for the farmers to get information.
YouTube videos are also used to get information about farming. For example, a rooftop farmer, Khaya Maloney who is a founder of Afrileap, shared that 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 produce to potential customers. Furthermore, agriculture government officials such as ministers also have their pages, blogs, and channels that help people with information.
However, older farmers are finding it challenging to adopt social media as a tool of marketing. Some farmers are less trusting when it comes to e-buying and e-selling of agricultural commodities on social media.
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