Agriculture has been categorized as the largest economic sector in most African countries, offering opportunities for poverty alleviation for youth, yet there is still a low percentage of youth involvement in the sector.
This has been attributed to several factors. One major reason for poor youth participation in agriculture, according to research carried out in Tanzania, is low returns linked to a lack of access to agricultural market information.
An IFAD-sponsored study explores how policy makers can promote information and communication technology (ICT) to make agricultural market information accessible to youth in rural Tanzania as producers need to locate potential buyers and identify where people are willing to pay higher prices for their produce. Sassi Akinyi, a researcher under the IITA-implemented CARE project, revealed that access to agricultural market information through mobile phones–ICT, can raise returns and make agriculture attractive to more youth in rural Tanzania.
This, in turn, will help reduce unemployment and promote rural development. The study, which is part of several others carried out by young researchers under the CARE project in 10 countries across Africa, has revealed factors that negatively affect women’s intention to use ICT, especially to access market information.
Despite previous studies suggesting that most farmers use mobile phones mainly for social purposes, Sassi states that using mobile phones to post offers of farm produce for sale and accessing bid prices in different markets can help farmers in rural Tanzania make more and profitable sales.
The study also showed that cultural stereotypes negatively affect mobile phone use among women, an area that policy makers can consider when promoting ICT among young farmers. While governments in Africa are working on various agriculture interventions for youth, the study has recommended the need to prioritize gender issues and other determinants of intention to promote the use of ICT in agriculture.
While the CARE study has revealed that using mobile phones for finding agriculture market information was higher among female farmers than males in rural Tanzania, several factors influenced the adoption, such as an increased access to valuable market information and ease of use.
The mobile phone affords rural farmers access to a large amount of agricultural information to improve their farming activities and, eventually, their livelihoods. It also provides the possibility of linking other parts of the country or the world to resources to help their farming practices.
For widespread adoption of mobile phones to occur among young Tanzanian farmers, policy makers need to create enabling conditions, which include network service access as well as orientation on the economic benefits of adopting it, Sassi added.