A farming community around the globe
This blog is a submission to the Community of Practice on Data-Driven Agronomy’s blog competition on digital extension—an opportunity for those working in the digital extension in agriculture field to share their experiences with their technologies, business models, key challenges, and major bottlenecks, as well as how they solved such challenges, when creating and implementing innovative solutions.
Justagric.com is an agricultural blog dedicated to solving farmers’ problems through the provision of innovative practices to improve the productivity of farm enterprises and the provision of market linkages to enable farmers to exchange their farm produce at cost-effective prices.
Launched in 2015, the site has served as a digital extension agent, providing farmers with innovative practices garnered through on-field practical experience and results from studies across various agricultural institutions around the globe.
Publications from justagric.com reach out to the target farmers through the email subscription, messengers, and social media platforms. The audience base of this blog extends across the farming community around the globe with more concentration from Nigeria, the USA, India, Philippine, Kenya, Uganda, and Ghana.
Over the years of active digital extension service, the website has contributed to the development of the economy of farmers by publishing an eBook that practically solves the problem of the cultivation of fluted pumpkin and ugu vegetable in Nigeria. The eBook, Practical Guide to Successful Fluted Pumpkin (Telfaria occidentalis) Farming, is currently on Amazon to help other farmers outside Nigeria.
In 2017, justagric.com organized a field trip to an integrated farm running an urban farming system, FIT farms, Igboopa-Ikorodu, Lagos state Nigeria. This field trip served as “an eye-opener” for the participants as they were able to see and learn how to maximize limited space for farming without compromising the yield from the farm enterprise.
Marketing of agricultural produce is a nagging problem that farmers in Nigeria and other Africa countries deal with on a daily basis. Having identified this as a major problem, a justagric.com Whatsapp Group has been a measure to mitigate this problem.
Farmers on the justagric.com Whatsapp platform have the opportunity to advertise their produce freely on a daily basis for exchange online and offline.
With this initiative, we have recorded good numbers of successful transactions.
Users of justagric.com have access to attending various agricultural programs like seminars, conferences, and exhibitions. Over 400 farmers, through justagric.com, made it to the Firstbank 2019 Agric Expo held on 30 August 2019, in Lagos Nigeria. Events like this help farmers to build their network and learn from big players in the industry.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced? How did you overcome them?
Every industry has its challenges and the solutions to these challenges are peculiar. Nigeria’s agricultural industry is not exempted in this case as the industry is yet to find its feet in the digital sphere. These problems include:
- Funding: Funding is a nagging problem facing agriculture digitally. Agricultural extension is an informal way of learning, however, the digital extension services seem formal to the large lots of farmers, and hence, they find it not applicable to their condition.
If enough funds were available, the innovations shared through the digital space could be dWhat. This would be more appealing and could be used as a bait to lure the farmers into the digital space.
The effort justagric.com management made to solve this problem was the field trip organized in 2017; the contacts of the participants were collated and added to the Justagric Whatsapp platform for further mentorship and follow up.
- Lack of cooperation: Agricultural cooperatives and institutions also play key roles in digital extension services in Nigeria. Conventional mass media, social media influencers, and agricultural digital extensionists do not publicize most of the agricultural events organized by these bodies.
The implication of this gesture is that most of their teachings do not get to the right audience because they choose to use the wrong means of publicity. If the agricultural cooperatives and institutions publicize their events through agricultural blogs, the right audience would participate, making the event more beneficial and impactful, also it boosts the credibility of the digital extension services among farmers.
Having identified this as a major problem, the management of justagric.com fetches updates of agricultural events from the social media pages and forum where the information had been posted to the farmers using justagric.com. This has been the main source of information on agricultural seminars, conferences, and exhibitions posted on justagric.com.
- Lack of proper training of agricultural digital extensionists: Agricultural digital extensionists and bloggers need to be trained by the top digital professionals on how to digitalize information for the betterment of farmers. Technology is producing different tools and aids on a daily basis to make life easier for its users across all fields; agriculture should not be left out of this development.
The management of justagric.com often makes effort to ensure the channel of information getting to the farmers is appealing to them; this led to the recent introduction of video lectures and animation to deliver innovations to the farmers.
In your opinion, what is the main opportunity for digital extension services? What recommendations would you make in order to realize this opportunity?
Several opportunities abound the digital space if optimized meticulously; these are:
- Employment opportunities
- Improvement in skills and knowledge
- Increase in the liquidity of the agricultural value chain
- Increase in the participation of the youths in agriculture
- Enhances the commercialization of creativity in agriculture.
In conclusion, I would recommend the use of agricultural blogs to convey information to farmers and players within the agricultural value chain and availability of regular digital enhancement trainings to improve the knowledge and skills of the digital extensionist for the betterment of agriculture.
Photo: Milo Mitchell / IFPRI.
January 20, 2020
Agbiaka Abdulquadri Olamilekan
Justagric agricultural blog