Social media for agricultural development actors


A great new resource on social media can help agriculture in developing countries has just been produced by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA). The publication ‘Embracing Web 2.0. and Social Media’ features case studies from Tanzania, Uganda, Madagascar, Ghana, Samoa, Rwanda, Kenya and Trinidad and Tobago.

The case studies are the result of 120 training events in 37 African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries, where training was given to more than 3,500 people. The publication offers a range of examples of how Web 2.0. technologies and social media have contributed to policy dialogue and advocacy, value chain development and the provision of information services. These case studies include tools such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Skype as well as Wikis, blogs, discussion groups, the use of search engines and crowdfunding.

I was particularly interested in the Do Agric advocacy campaign which aimed (and succeeded to remind leaders that they had promised to commit 10% of budgets to agriculture. The petition was signed by more than 2.2 million people.

Another story that caught my eye was an NGO called the Women in Business Inc in Pacific Island State of Samoa. Through social media they have increased their e-commerce side of the business to sell indigenous products. Some of the finest traditional woven Samoan mats sell for around 2,290 Euros. Most of the initial enquiries about the mats are received via Facebook.

You can download the Embracing Web 2.0. and Social Media booklet from the CTA website.

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Cafedirect – #OneBigTweet


A new fundraising campaign from Cafédirect #OneBigTweet  offers the public the chance to donate to Cafédirect Producers’ Foundation (CPF), a charity that supports smallholder tea and coffee farmers around the world, without spending a penny.

By signing up, people can join a large network of twitter users donating their followers. CPF wants to grow #OneBigTweet so big that is can be auctioned for charity. The buyer will then be able to auto-retweet their #OneBigTweet from the accounts of supporters for onetime only.“When we looked around at the saturated fundraising market, we felt that there’s not much chance for a small charity struggling to be noticed in this environment” said Katie Messick Maddox, Business Development & Investments Manager at CPF. “Rather than wanting to resort to the same old tactics, we at CPF want to set ourselves out from the crowd.”

Cafédirect Producers’ Foundation won the Google Impact Challenge in July 2014 and used the £500,000 to launch their first subsidiary social Enterprise, We Farm. They are always looking for new and exciting ways to build upon their past successes and engage with new audiences to have an even greater impact on the 280,000+ smallholder farmers in their network globally.“Our programmes with farmers look to support them in developing and sharing their innovations and knowledge with fellow farmers across our smallholder network,” says CPF General Manager, Claire Rhodes “#OneBigTweet is designed to reflect this by leveraging social media to create a new kind of crowd-funding movement.”

There have been quite a few Thunderclap requests from charities before, so it will be interesting to see if this campaign gets traction.

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Voices from the Field – WaterAid

madagascar2Whilst travelling to Madagascar to observe WaterAid’s Voices from the Field (VftF) project, I was reading an excellent book about photojournalism.

One of the chapters focuses on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and how many organisations have commissioned photojournalists in recent years, with reference to well-known campaigns.

The chapter critiques issues such as informed consent, representation, branding guidelines, negative vs positive imagery, authenticity, compassion fatigue and editing. It was ideal fodder for thinking about the week ahead.

Why do I feel uncomfortable about some of the debates? I think the main reason is because the majority of the photographers referenced in this particular chapter are of Western descent – but there are some highly talented photographers in the global south documenting the work of humanitarian organisations. Why are so few of them featured?

Maybe this is one of the reasons I was so intrigued by the VftF project when I first heard about it. I instantly wanted to learn more, hence my trip to Madagascar to spend three days in the field with Ernest Randriarimalala, WaterAid’s VftF officer there.

Making a film about Madagascar

During my time observing Ernest he was filming a video about Madagascar from his perspective. After a few general shots of the capital, Tana, we set off towards Antsirabe, Madagascar’s second largest city.


On the way we made a few stops to take some background shots and the first thing I noticed about Ernest was his natural communication skills. Whenever we asked to film, no one challenged us. Ernest explained that he was making a film about his country and not one single person objected.

Having worked myself in marketing and communications for over 20 years, I often encounter people who do not want to be filmed.

Perhaps the Malagasy people are just too polite to say no, maybe they like being photographed more than some other cultures, or most probably they are charmed by Ernest and his enchanting smile.

Building long-term relationships

In my opinion communication skills are absolutely fundamental for the VftF role. Ernest speaks Malagasy, French and English fluently which means he can genuinely inform people of his work.

He is also able to relate to the communities he visits, as he grew up in a village with no water or sanitation and was often sick as a result.

I visited both pre- and post- intervention sites during my trip and I was heart-warmingly touched by the difference between the two.

The VftF project is about building long-term relationships with communities, documenting progress and creating stories to inform donors that their fundraising efforts are making a big difference to people’s lives.

Helping people thousands of miles away

For three weeks in June, Ernest visited the UK for training and advocacy work.

During this time he spent five days in Northumbria visiting a number of WaterAid supporters, which included speaking at a fundraising ball organised by Northumbrian Water.

To me, the VftF programme has so many obvious benefits, such as language, relationship building, informed consent and effective use of funds, but what I hadn’t thought about was the two-way communication and advocacy work that Ernest carries out each year.

At the ball he showed images of the toilets and access to clean water that have been installed, and more importantly the people who benefit, as a result of their fundraising efforts.

When he returns to the field, he is also able to tell beneficiaries about meeting the many people who have organised balls, raffles, cake sales, sponsored runs, all to help communities they are unlikely to ever visit nearly 10,000 km away.

As Ernest said, “It was great meeting these people in a city in the north of England, who are doing all these fundraising activities to help people thousands of miles away. It is so amazing that they organise so many events to help the Malagasy people.”

A watchdog for WaterAid

The other thing I’d never really considered was the accountability side of this role. Ernest is truly passionate about his work and in many ways acts as a watchdog for WaterAid and its supporters as he documents the installation of new facilities.

As he puts it: “I really enjoy my job. I get to meet all these people whose lives have changed as a result of our work. I’m really glad that I get to see both the fundraising side in the UK as well as the end result.

“If I ever thought that money was not being spent well, then I’d quit my job. Simple as that. I’m lucky that I don’t feel that way at all. I absolutely love it.”


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Shamba Shape Up and the Use of Social Media

Shamba Shape Up is a reality style TV show designed to educate East Africa’s rapidly growing rural audience. The make over style show aims to give both farmer and the audience the tools they need to improve productivity and income on their farms. Each week the Shape Up team visit a different farm in a different area of the country. The team includes the film crew and a number of experts from partner organisations who specialize in the topics to be covered in the episode. The core of the series tackles issues surrounding livestock, poultry, crops and soil fertility. Other relevant topics include financial planning, solar power and harvesting rainwater.

The series is also supported online with a popular Facebook page which has around 44,500 fans, a Twitter page which has nearly 3,000 followers, a YouTube channel, and recently, a blog and Instagram. The interaction on the Facebook page is pretty impressive.

As well as online, viewers without internet or power can SMS a database and ask for information in the form of leaflets. These leaflets are posted to people free of charge once they SMS asking for them. So far 250,000 have been distributed. Recently, Shamba Shape Up has moved to mobile, with the starting of iShamba. iShamba is a mobile information service, which gives subscribers access to a call centre, SMS service, weather reports, farming tips and deals or advice form commercial partners.

Katharine MacMahon, Communications Officer for Shamba Shape Up said “The social media has been a great tool for us, with our Facebook page becoming a hub for farmers to get advice from either us or from other farmers on the group. We run regular competitions with our partners help, and also invite people to send in photos of their farm and get involved in discussions. In general, the Facebook page is farmer-focused.

In comparison, the Twitter page, which is much smaller, has more of a partner-focus. We interact with our partners and the information they have to offer much more on Twitter, with more of a complex nature (on the Facebook page, posts must not have words which are more than 7 letters long – keeping it easy to read for farmers who may be less educated).

Last month we held a Tweetchat on #TalkSoil, in the lead up to Global Soil Week, with the help of CIAT. It was successful in both discussing the issues surrounding soil health, and also to raise the profile of Shamba Shape Up in the agricultural community on Twitter. To increase the number of Twitter followers, we aim to tweet much more than we currently do, get involved with more discussions and tweet chats and engage more with #KOT (#KenyansOnTwitter – a huge hashtag in Kenya used by millions), and connect with more farmers here.”

The show is on TV in Kenya (4 million viewers), Uganda (2 million viewers) and Tanzania (4 million viewers). It was started in 2008, and became Kenya’s reality style TV show. It is the third “edu-tainment” production created by Mediae.

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Norwegian Asylum Seeker Quiz Show Parody

The Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers (NOAS) have just started a campaign to highlight the awful realities of many people who are rejected when seeking asylum.

A fictitious talent show, So You Think you Can Stay,tells the stories of the ‘contestants’ who are all based on real asylum cases that NOAD has engaged with through their legal aid service.

Mari Seilskjær, advisor at NOAS said “We want to show the stories of some of those who fled to Norway in our talent show. We will present people like Amir, who based on our experience, should be granted residence permit in Norway, but nevertheless has had his asylum application refused. Rejected asylum seekers represent a demographic that often gets negative attention by the media. We want to convey the stories of some of these people and show that many of these people have good reason to fear persecution in their homeland.”

The video reminds me of another very successful campaign in Norway produced by SAIH, Who Wants to Be a Volunteer. The film was produced pro bono by Fantefilm and took a total of three months to complete including planning, filming and editing. It is good to see development organisations experimenting with creative storytelling techniques to educate people about issues that are sometimes misrepresented by the national media.

Visit the campaign website for more information:


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