Blogging to enhance agriculture and youth interest:            Findings of the Youth in Agriculture Blog Competition (YoBl...
INTRODUCTIONBlogs (short for web logs) are online journals, maintained by an individual or (lesscommonly) by a small group...
organizations interested in the “youth in agriculture” question; and (3) promoting thesharing of information on the issues...
Fig. 1: Country of origin of received entries.          Fig. 2: Language of received entries.1.2. Initial selectionThe sel...
rely too much on the online evaluation was taken into account: it was decided to allowthe public to vote for 15 finalists,...
1.4. Final evaluationThe 15 finalists for the individual category, resulting from the public evaluationprocess10, were ann...
In most cases, the blogs were not only related to agriculture or rural development.However, over the period of the competi...
international levels; and in others they discussed theoretically socio-economicproblems.The writing styles are also very d...
Winning blogsIndividual Category1st prize: Nawsheen Hosenally http://nawsheenh.blogspot.com/Nawsheen (23) has newly gradua...
2.3. Challenges faced by youth in agricultureIn their posts, the bloggers raised and discussed many issues concerning yout...
   Environmental challenges impacting agricultural sustainability;       “When I was a young boy, we used to go to the fa...
“Banks are seen by many as expensive to operate in terms of fees: They charge       their customers for the storage and wi...
34% of participants directly knew about the competition through the ARDYIS webspaces (including website, official Facebook...
Blogging habits and costsAccording to the survey results, most people manage their blogs weekly (56%) or atleast monthly (...
3.2. ACP agriculture and youth engagement promoted by the YoBloCo AwardsFeedback from the bloggers and from audience illus...
The impact on the personal and professional activities of participants are visible throughthe words of some of them. For e...
“[I like] the bold move of engaging in agriculture and seeking to commercialize it       in the process. The basic descrip...
asked by someone to conduct a feasibility study for the implementation of an       agro-pastoral project” [GIC Bellomar].I...
ARDYIS Project. (2011). YoBloCo Awards: Write a blog on youth and agriculture andwin up to 3,000 Euros! . [Online] Availab...
Africa (PIWA) in Senegal, UNESCO (France), Oridev Association (Benin) and the Association forProgressive Communications (A...
13  See for example the original poem “To your warm embrace we return…”, about agriculture andadoptions of new tools such ...
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Conferece paper: Blogging to enhance agriculture and youth interest: Findings of the YoBloCo Awards

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  1. 1. Blogging to enhance agriculture and youth interest: Findings of the Youth in Agriculture Blog Competition (YoBloCo Awards) by Ken Lohento1, Giorgio Bellinzas2, CTA Ardyis ProjectPaper presented at the 2012 Conference of the African Chapter of the International Associationof Agricultural Information Specialists (IAALD).Keywords: youth, acp, agriculture, blog, ict, cta, ardyis.AbstractStrengthening the involvement of youth in agriculture and addressing the challengesthey face in embracing agricultural professional activities are pressing issues thatdetermine the prosperity of that sector in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) regions(CTA, 2011). The new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can alsoplay a pivotal role in that context (SPC-PAFPNet, 2010). In the framework of its ARDYISprojects’ activities, the Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU(CTA) and some partners launched the Youth in Agriculture Blog Competition (YoBloCoAwards) in 2011. The main aims were to put into limelight successes and challengesfaced by youth engaged in agriculture, encourage the use of new informationtechnologies for information dissemination by young farmers and organizationsinterested in the “youth in agriculture” question. Opened in two categories (individualand institutional), the competition helped to identify 92 agricultural blogs from ACPcountries, among which 52 were submitted to public evaluation through the internet.This paper presents the strong interest that the competition raised during the publicevaluation of blogs, the contents of blogs, the challenges faced by young farmers, theemerging impacts for institutional and individual bloggers, as highlighted in the posts, inpublic comments and in a survey undertaken. It discusses the role blogging can play foryouth and public awareness raising and advocacy on agricultural issues, as well as thechallenges that online votes and blog competitions in development activities can pose. 1
  2. 2. INTRODUCTIONBlogs (short for web logs) are online journals, maintained by an individual or (lesscommonly) by a small group of bloggers. Typically, blogs are constituted by a series ofentries (“posts”) posted to the main page in reverse chronological order (Thackeray,2010). They have emerged in the late 1990 thanks to the advent of web publishingsoftware that facilitate the production of information by people without IT technical skills.Blogs have democratized citizen expression on the web and have developedinteractions between producers and users of information, experts and citizens,organizations and beneficiaries of their services (IPAO, 2008). Blogs, in particular, havebeen proficiently applied to domains such as education and medicine, with tangibleeffects on the diffusion of relevant information to a larger – and often younger –audience (Giustini, 2006; Churchill, 2009). However, very little is known about blogs inthe domain of agriculture and rural development, especially in developing countries.This paper contributes to filling this gap, using the information and experience observedthrough the activities connected with the YoBloCo Awards, a blog competition launchedin 2011 in the framework of the ARDYIS Project, by the Technical Centre for Agriculturaland Rural Development Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA), in partnership with variousorganizations3. The purpose of the project, whose name is the acronym of “Agriculture,Rural Development and Youth in the Information Society”, is to “raise youth awarenessand capacity on agricultural and rural development issues in ACP 4 countries throughICTs” (ARDYIS Project, 2010). In particular, the paper presents the strong interest thatthe competition raised during the public evaluation of blogs, the issues discussed in theblogs, the challenges faced by young farmers as highlighted by the posts and theemerging “impact” for institutional and individual bloggers. It also discusses the role ofyouth blogging in public awareness raising and advocacy on agricultural issues, as wellas the challenges that online votes and blog competitions in development activities canpose.The YoBloCo Awards targeted two different categories: the first one (“individualcategory”) addressed to young bloggers from ACP countries, who maintain a personalblog in which they consistently discuss agricultural and rural development issues; thesecond one (“institutional category”) addressed to organizations from ACP countriesdealing with agriculture or rural development, such as young farmers organizations,agricultural NGOs or private companies etc. The bloggers, for both categories, wererequired to be aged 18 to 35 years and to write in either English or French.The blog competition aimed at: (1) highlighting success and challenges faced by theyouth engaged in agriculture and in rural areas; (2) encouraging the production ofinformation and the use of new information technologies by young farmers’ groups and 2
  3. 3. organizations interested in the “youth in agriculture” question; and (3) promoting thesharing of information on the issues of agriculture and rural development in African,Caribbean and Pacific countries (ARDYIS Project, 2011).1. Organization of the competition1.2. LaunchThe YoBloCo Awards was officially launched on July 23th 2011, with an announcementpublished in the ARDYIS Website5. The announcement was subsequently disseminatedvia email, mailing lists and social networking websites (such as Facebook, Twitter andLinkedIn), posted on target websites (such as Zunia, e-Agriculture, Eldis) andadvertised on CTA and other partner institutions web-spaces, as well as in CTA printmagazine Spore.Participants could submit an already existent blog or a newly created one. For thisreason, the entry submissions remained open until October 31st 2011, leaving morethan 3 months for perspective participants to start or update their blogs with agriculturalcontent. As it will be discussed later, this has been a successful strategy, as many ofthe participants were surely urged to create a new blog by the possibility of winning upto 3000 Euros in cash prizes, and they initiated their blogging activity that many of themactively continue today.At the end of the submission process, 69 entries from 21 ACP countries were receivedin the individual category, and 22 entries from 10 ACP countries for the institutionalcategory (see figures 1 and 2 for details). As it can be well noted in figure 1, the entrieswere not evenly distributed by region, and this fact had to be taken into accountespecially in the institutional category, where regional prizes were awarded. In bothcategories, entries from East and West Africa were prevalent. No entries were receivedfor the Southern Africa and Pacific regions in the institutional category. 3
  4. 4. Fig. 1: Country of origin of received entries. Fig. 2: Language of received entries.1.2. Initial selectionThe selection of winners were divided into three different phases: (1) a pre-selection, (2)a public evaluation process and (3) a final evaluation process, which was undertaken byan independent jury composed of three experts in agriculture, rural development, andICTs 6.The 917 entries underwent a first pre-selection process. Only the blogs that fully met thequality requirements – as explained in the contest rules (cf. ARDYIS Project, 2011) –were pre-selected. For example, blogs that did not have enough information (aminimum of 5 posts was decided for a blog to be pre-selected) and blogs that did notfocus enough on agricultural issues were excluded, along with those entrants that didnot adequately filled the online submission form. Resulting from this initial selection, 36blogs entered the online evaluation process for the individual category and 16 blogs forthe institutional category8.1.3. Online public evaluationThe Individual and the Institutional categories substantially differed in many aspects,including the value of the prizes and the number of participants. For this reason, aformal online voting system was put in place only for the individual category. The risk to 4
  5. 5. rely too much on the online evaluation was taken into account: it was decided to allowthe public to vote for 15 finalists, while the final decision about the winners will be takenby the jury of experts. The number of finalists is in fact large enough to avoid actual bestblogs to be excluded from the competition, just because they lacked of internetsupporters. On the other hand, for the institutional category, it was decided that thejudges will directly select winners to avoid biases, especially because this category hadless entries and could be more sensitive. But the public was invited to comment theinstitutional blogs, in order to indicate for example what they liked and disliked. It’s worthnoting that the overwhelming majority of comments positively appreciated the blogs,which may illustrate fair or subjective appreciations (for example from friends andrelatives). But CTA constantly promoted the evaluation process in various spaces togive chance to independent votes to be made. The comments in many cases wereuseful to the judges but they relied on their own judgement.A special blog was created for the competition9. Apart from disseminating informationabout the competition, it helped to present the eligible blogs and to keep the publicupdated about the contest. Through this website, the users were able to access theonline voting page for the individual category and comment on the institutional blogs.The decision to set up a public evaluation process was taken in order to enhance thevisibility of the competition and the eligible blogs, to engage both the participants andthe audience and to encourage bloggers to keep on producing good material for theirblogs.The voting system was constantly monitored to avoid possible misuse or frauds (e.g.multiple votes coming from spam bots), and the possibility of such misuse was alsotaken into account after the voting system closure. As initial tool against malpractice, thevoting system made use of captcha. Moreover, the user was required to insert a validemail address and a free comment about the chosen blogs. Multiple votes coming fromthe same IP address were allowed but carefully monitored. This decision followed fromthe fact that - especially in a rural environment - different users often access the internetfrom the same computer in telecentres and sometimes multiple computers can have thesame IP address.The public evaluation process was launched on December 5th 2011, along with thepublication of the eligible blogs on the ARDYIS website, and was closed on December31st. During this period, 2214 votes were cast by 2080 voters (this difference innumbers is explained with the fact that voters could vote for up to two blogs) and 612comments were received for blogs in the institutional category.Undertaking this online evaluation in different manners was also an opportunity for theARDYIS project to test various platforms and interactions with public in those kinds ofprocesses. 5
  6. 6. 1.4. Final evaluationThe 15 finalists for the individual category, resulting from the public evaluationprocess10, were announced on January 25th, 2012. The jury members, independentlyfilled out an evaluation sheet, in which each blog were marked according to the criteriabased on those announced in the competition’s rule11. A Skype meeting helped jurymembers to reach agreement on winners and runners-up. The winners were officiallyannounced on March 12, 2012.2. Analysis of submitted blogsTo better understand the content and the quality of the blogs submitted for the publicevaluation, an in-depth analysis was performed12.2.1. Technical aspectsWordpress and Blogger (powered by Google) were the most used CMS (ContentManagement Systems) used by bloggers. These two platforms are popular for manyreasons: first of all, they are among the easiest and most user friendly CMS availablefor free on the internet, and many widgets and plug-ins are also easily available. Theyare also rapidly indexed by search engines (especially Google Blogger). Moreover,these CMS are already very popular, and it is easy to find advices on their use.Many bloggers have used widgets, plug-ins or features such as:  Facebook connect, Google Friendship connect and Twitter to attract and interact with friends and new visitors;  Fidjit.com Live Traffic Feed, Maps.Amung.us, Revolvermaps.com, mapping to see from where their visitors come from;  Flickr.com, Picasa.com to publish photos and galleries;  Youtube, Vimeo to publish their videos;RSS feeds are also available in most blogs.2.2. ContentsThe posts analyzed can be grouped into three general kinds:  collection/re-post of existing articles already published online or on other media;  original reflections and discussion about existing articles already published online or on other media;  original reports or reflections on real experience (e.g. in the field, at a workshop etc.). 6
  7. 7. In most cases, the blogs were not only related to agriculture or rural development.However, over the period of the competition, the blogs submitted cover three mainsubject areas to a different extent:  agricultural issues in ACP countries;  youth involvement in agriculture;  ICT use in agriculture.These themes are also the main focus of ARDYIS Project and the YoBloCo Awards, soarguably the bloggers adjusted their focus to better cover them.The focus of each blogger depends on the background, the domain of expertise/interestand the area of focus chosen by each individual or institution. More specifically, thetopics covered by blogs are presented in the figure below:.Fig. 3: Areas of focus of blogs in the individual and institutional category. 120% 100% Percentage and 80% 16 16 number of blogs that talk about main thematics 60% 12 11 11 11 10 Individual Category 40% 8 Institutional Category 20% 0%Other themes observed included food security, climate change, environment, educationand training, agricultural policy and strategy, extension, GMO, agricultural value chains,research and innovation, entrepreneurship, resource management (water and land),funding, Mechanization and modernization, energy, biofueland gender issues.The issues were discussed or presented in a variety of contexts: in most cases, theposts describe activities of institutions or people that entered the competition; in othercases they were related to news updates or events at National or Pan African or 7
  8. 8. international levels; and in others they discussed theoretically socio-economicproblems.The writing styles are also very different from one blogger to another depending on theirprofessional background, their area of expertise and their target audience. While somebloggers write with professional journalist style (some bloggers are journalists), othershave more formal and technical styles (for example students or young professionals inagriculture), and a few have high creative artistic/poetic style13. Others, on the otherhand, have used a more typical informal blog style writing which illustrates youngpeople who just want to communicate with an audience or with their peers.Before the competition, some existing blogs covered other themes such as democraticgovernance, economy, or personal/life style issues (such as songs, life experience, andpoetry), but most already had agricultural contents.The following comments are more specifically related to the best 32 blogs received(blogs that were submitted for the public evaluation).Between the period of the competition (July 2011 and February 2012), at least 744posts had been published online on the 32 blogs (about 400 posts from bloggerscompeting in the individual category and around 344 posts from those applying in theinstitutional category)The blog that had the highest number of posts for all categories is a blog from Nigeriaparticipating in the institutional category, with 123 posts; this blog contains articleswritten by journalists from a news agency, with articles mainly but not limited toagriculture. In the individual category, the blog that contains the higher number of postshad at least 101 postings. A few blogs however had between 5 and 10 posts (in mostcases these blogs had been created after the launch of the competition). But there is norelationship between the number of posts and the quality of blogs. Some very shortblogs, with about 8 posts were very informative and well written, with original content.The specific contents of winning blogs are briefly presented in the next page. Otherblogs content are presented in the announcement of results (ARDYIS Project 2012). 8
  9. 9. Winning blogsIndividual Category1st prize: Nawsheen Hosenally http://nawsheenh.blogspot.com/Nawsheen (23) has newly graduated in agriculture. With her blog “Nawsheen World”,she aims to put forward the main issues and key news related to agriculture in Mauritiusand other developing countries. She also writes about activities she is engaged in.2nd prize: Sourou H. A. NANKPAN http://www.agrobenin.com/Graduated in Biotechnology, Sourou (27) is passionate about agriculture and foodproduction. His blog, “Agro Benin”, is focused on presenting and discussing the impactsof rural migration on agriculture, consequences of climate warming, government projects,challenges facing food security and other issues in Benin.3rd prize: Anthony Mwangi http://youngagropreneur.wordpress.com/In his blog, “The Young Agropreneur”, Anthony (21) shares his experience as a youngagricultural entrepreneur. He describes his blog as “a resource for information on mattersconcerning agriculture in Kenya and the Eastern African region”; it is also “a wake-up callfor the youth to venture into agriculture”.Institutional CategoryCARIBBEAN: Agribusiness Society of the University of West Indies (UWI)http://technology4agri.wordpress.com/This blog is an extension of the Agribusiness Society (ABS) and is animated by youngstudents. The content focuses on technologies which can positively impact agri-development at all levels. Technologies range from simple devices to high tech andscientific innovations, including ICTs, renewable energy production, water managementetc.EAST AFRICA: Farming and Technology for Africa(http://www.jeuneagrimadagascar.org/)Farming and Technology for Africa (FTA) is a registered association from Madagascar.The creation of this blog followed from a meeting between FTA and students of Forestryand Rural Development at the University of Antananarivo. The blog is an information anddiscussion platform for youth in the agricultural sector in Madagascar.WEST AFRICA: Syecomp Business Services (http://agricinghana.wordpress.com/)This blog seeks to highlight issues on agricultural development in Ghana and in the sub-region: policies, market access linkages, youth in agriculture, ICT applications andfunding opportunities. Activities of Syecomp Business Services are also promoted on thisblog. 9
  10. 10. 2.3. Challenges faced by youth in agricultureIn their posts, the bloggers raised and discussed many issues concerning youth inagriculture, from their own experience and view point. Below, we present someexamples, using little excerpts from the participant’s blogs:  Land availability and quality (including land grabbing by multinationals) “For many young persons, land is a big challenge in their activities. In the countryside and also in rural Bujumbura, agricultural production is often made on the family land; for this reason, becoming an independent young farmer is sometimes an impossible dream, given the precarious means of several rural youth.” (From: Jeunesse et Agriculture au Burundi14, translated from French).  Improving the educational system (to better prepare youth for the job market and to develop capacity building in agriculture); “Agriculture is not exactly attractive. [...] I think young persons can still be steered to develop interest in agriculture. One effective means of doing that is making the subject Agricultural Science as practical as possible in secondary schools. [...] Let students practice the concepts of harrowing, ploughing, tilling, planting, weeding, manure production and application, harvesting and most importantly “reaping the fruits of their labor”. (From: Agrophilia: The Poetic Farmer15)  The need to develop market access and to promote transparency on prices; “A good chunk of our young farmers in Kenya do not have access to material and timely information on matters agriculture. Be it market price information or information concerning inputs like seeds, agrichemicals; most of us have trouble getting the right information at the right to take sizeable action that may significantly impact yields, processes, problems etc.” (From: The Young Agropreneur16)  Psychological and cultural factors that hinder youth involvement in agriculture; “Most young people, in particular the « educated » ones, continue to claim that agriculture is an activity for the poor. But if they knew how many people - even great personalities – live with this activity, they would be surprised. For example the big quantity of milk that are consumed in large cities of Burundi are provided by the dairies owned by the wealthy and educated people”. (from: Jeunesse et Agriculture au Burundi17, translated from French) 10
  11. 11.  Environmental challenges impacting agricultural sustainability; “When I was a young boy, we used to go to the farm and come back to Nairobi with a lot of produce that at times we had to use two pick-up trucks to transport the goods. 15 years later yields disappeared into the air. Today we can barely fill the boot of a mini van – back in the day, it used to rain more often than like today where it barely rains and when it does the rains are unpredictable and sometimes destroys plants since it’s very erratic.” (From: The Young Agropreneur18)  Engaging youth in policy-making. “There is the need to attract youth in Agriculture for a myriad of reasons explained above. But presently what is also very important is to find means and ways to support those youth who are already in the sector and facing a lots of challenges. Tailor-made programmes that meet the needs of different categories of youth (urban/rural, educated/uneducated etc.) in different countries and regions should be designed and implemented. Moreover, National Agriculture and youth policies should be reviewed and youth should be involved in decision making and policy generation, since they should be included in decisions that would impact them!” (From: Nawsheen’s World19)Other problems highlighted by young bloggers in their posts were: the need to developagricultural technology; innovation and mechanization of agriculture; the need forfunding and improved financial services (for farming activities in general andentrepreneurship); the need to develop and reform agricultural advisory services amongothers.2.4. Potential and actual use of ICT by farmers/youthAccording to youth, many of the challenges cited above can be resolved partially by theuse of ICTs. For example, in some posts we found proposals to enhance extensionservices using information technologies: “Extensionists, and in this context the youths, can tailor videos to meet the requirement of the farming class in their regions for use in disseminating specific information. This kind of human resource investment can yield important results in the form of increased agricultural productivity and decreasing unemployment levels among the youths”. (From: The Youth and Agriculture20)In others, bloggers discuss how mMoney can secure and facilitate transactions: 11
  12. 12. “Banks are seen by many as expensive to operate in terms of fees: They charge their customers for the storage and withdrawal services. Their services can only be accessed in major towns or even only in Nairobi. M-Pesa is cheap, convenient and you only need to go to one of these M-Pesa kiosks and agents”. (From: The Youth and Agriculture 21)Other uses of ICTs observed in the blog discussions included how:  ICT can improve training and agricultural education;  ICT can improve access to market and enhance marketing;  ICT helps keep farmers informed on price, weather, techniques and innovation;  ICT and social media facilitates exchange, collaboration and networking;Some blogs (such as the blog from Solomon Elorm Allavi22) mentioned the use of GISfor land mapping and localization of specific plants using GPS. GPS is also used inadvanced automated mechanized farming systems and other productive ways.3. Results of a survey on participants:As a follow-up activity to the YoBloCo Awards, a survey addressed to the participantswas undertaken. The aim was to have a first assessment of the competition fromparticipants’ point of view to better understand the profile of participants and have asense of the immediate impacts for them. The survey was composed of 20 questionsand specifically targeted the 52 participants whose blogs were chosen to be part of theonline evaluation. The responses collected were 36, which constitutes 70% of totalparticipants and therefore an acceptable sample.3.1. Profile of YoBloCo Awards’ participantsAmong respondents, only 5 live in rural areas (14%), while most of the participantscome from the capital city or other town. Among those living in rural areas, two are ruralorganizations.Most of the people either access the internet from home, from a telecentre (such ascyber cafés, public libraries etc.) or from their office. Among the participants of theinstitutional category, most people were in charge of the information andcommunication, while 24% were the CEO of the organization. Other roles includeaccounting officer and IT technician. 12
  13. 13. 34% of participants directly knew about the competition through the ARDYIS webspaces (including website, official Facebook page and discussion groups) and 23%through other CTA web spaces. A majority (40%) of respondents knew about thecompetition through their networks, which includes family, friends and colleagues. Nonereported that they retrieved the information in some paper based magazines ornewspaper. This data largely reflects the advertisement that was organized for theYoBloCo Awards, which was primarily oriented on the online users.Newly created and existing blogs54% of people already had their blog started, while 46% created the blog for thecompetition itself. Quite interestingly, the fact that a blog was newly created does notmean that its quality will be inferior than the already established ones. The results of thejury evaluation awarded the 2nd and the 3rd prize of individual category to newly createdblogs, and also 2 out of 3 winning institutional blogs have been created after the launchof the YoBloCo Awards. According to this data, the competition successfully engagedyoung people that never blogged about agriculture to adopt this means ofcommunication. However, in order to better evaluate this outcome, one should alsoconsider the long term aspects: the ultimate success in this regard is in fact linked withthe ability and willingness of bloggers to consistently update their blogs, and this issomething that will have to be analyzed on a longer run. 13
  14. 14. Blogging habits and costsAccording to the survey results, most people manage their blogs weekly (56%) or atleast monthly (31%). Few people seem to be able to take care of their blog on a dailybasis. Most people declare to use both secondary sources and their own personalexperience (work experience and participation to conferences, for example) to writetheir blog-posts. Internet (Google, Wikipedia etc.) is the most used source of secondaryinformation (69% of respondents declare to use it), well better than newspapers (28%)and radio and television (9%).The survey also shows how blogs are in fact simple and cheap tools to communicateonline. More than 90% of respondents opened their blog on a free platform, and almosteverybody was able to build the blog by their own, without any additional cost, apartfrom internet connection. Moreover, the cost of the connection is usually paid by theblogger or, in a few cases, by the organization for which he or she works. 14
  15. 15. 3.2. ACP agriculture and youth engagement promoted by the YoBloCo AwardsFeedback from the bloggers and from audience illustrate that the contest hascontributed to promoting agriculture and youth involvement in the sector.Most respondents to the survey observed clear links between their participation in thecompetition and a direct impact on their activity as bloggers interested in agriculture.The first and most obvious indicator is the increasing access to their blogs. 72%registered a significant increase in the visits to the blog after entering the YoBloCoAwards, and 16% registered a small increase. Only 6% of respondents did not registerany difference. A quotation from winner participant of the individual category isexplicatory: “Talking about statistics, I had more than 1000 (thousand) more visitors since the launch of online voting. Before the online voting, my blog recorded nearly 900 visitors. Today over 2500 consulted it” [Anne Matho].An increase of interactivity of the blogs can also be registered, thanks to the data aboutcomments on the published posts. 66% of respondents registered a certain increase offeedbacks from the public, either significant (25%) or slight (41%). Quite predictably,this increase was not as high as the increase in the access, and 28% of people did noteven registered any increase in comments.The survey also investigated on “qualitative” impacts. In particular, it focused on theincrease of various key elements in the bloggers life, such as their interest andknowledge in agriculture, ICTs and social networks. Most participants felt an increase ofthese elements after entering the competition. 15
  16. 16. The impact on the personal and professional activities of participants are visible throughthe words of some of them. For example, the response of a young Ghanian companythat won the regional prize in the institutional category, affirms this: “Blogging is becoming an exciting engagement for me personally. It is fast becoming an excellent avenue for publishing my organization’s activities and marketing of our products and services” [Syecomp Business Services].Other comments are also enthusiastic: “In the beginning, I created my blog without a real editorial line. Thanks to the competition I’m specializing in the topic of ICTs and Agriculture and I’m sure I will keep on animating my blog, more than before my participation in the competition” [Inoussa Traoré]. Funding opportunities were also met by others:“Actually, this particular blog post fetched US$ 500 immediately I had published it. The funds were sent and already utilized for our beekeeping project and other organization activities. [Another blog blog post] helped to fund-raise funds for the scholastic material donations of three schools in rural areas attended by over 1300 pupils from families of the farmers”. [Kikandwa Rural Communities Kirucodo]Apart from the declarations of bloggers, the comments left by the public on some blogshave acknowledged that many posts provide original or much needed information, orencourage youth blogging on agriculture, as an effective enterprise for advocacy for thissector; sometimes collaboration/exchange of information among bloggers from differentparts of the world also occurs. Excerpts below illustrate these statements: “I came across your blog and I like your work here, kudos. I have been researching on dairy farming in Kenya for a while because I want to invest my energy and time in it.” [Comment left to The Young Agropreneur]. “Fascinating stuff. Keep us posted with developments in Kenya. There are several interesting projects in the UK. In my home city of Birmingham, a local entrepreneur, the guy who set up East End Foods, is building a showcase experimental hydroponics urban farm slap bang in the city (I wrote a blogpost about my visit here: [link])” [Comment left to The Young Agropreneur]. 16
  17. 17. “[I like] the bold move of engaging in agriculture and seeking to commercialize it in the process. The basic description also helps understand the approach in farming, making quite attractive” [Comment left by a voter] “[I like those blogs because] they both motivate young people to take action while encouraging policy makers to create enabling environment; youths are to take initiative” [Comment left by a voter] “[I like] the themes covered, in particular food poisoning and issues about Benin rice, these are important topics. Benin, like several other African countries suffer from unfair competition from imported rice”. [Comment left by a voter] “The challenges of agriculture in Burundi must be known first, in order to be overcome ; this initiative can help in that”. [Comment left by a voter]In conclusion, the analysis of the survey shows that the YoBloCo Awards is having animmediate impact on participants’ interest in agriculture and on their blogging activity.CONCLUSIONIt appears that the YoBloCo Awards has been an exciting experience for organizers butalso for bloggers. It seems a first and unique competition of its sort, targeting agriculturein developing contries, and future editions, as well as increased promotion will certainlyincrease participation. The online evaluation has been a learning experience for theArdyis project. The competition has helped us to have some insights on peopleblogging on agriculture. Through comments on their posts and interactions with thepublic, bloggers are raising more awareness on agricultural challenges and encouragingnew youth interest. It has also started to have some impact on entrants even those whodid not win the competition. As a participant commented on the official YoBloCo blog“We observed a significant increase of visitors [to our blog], with more than 40% ofincoming links from the website ardyis.cta.int”. And another entrant to the institutionalcategory also noted that: “We had more than 465 visits to our blog after the beginning of the evaluation process, and most of them came from the ARDYIS website, Facebook and Google. This contest permitted to highlight our work on agriculture”. (…) We too have demands from students preparing their theses (…) and we have even been 17
  18. 18. asked by someone to conduct a feasibility study for the implementation of an agro-pastoral project” [GIC Bellomar].Interactions from the public also illustrate that the citizens’ interest and advocacy inagriculture can be created or further strengthened via blogging. In the period of thevotes (05 to 31 December 2011), the YoBloCo official blog (WordPress-based) and theindividual vote page (Joomla-based) received 3774 and 1899 visits, respectively. All thisillustrate that effective citizen journalism is possible in agriculture. This is an interestingconclusion for organizations like CTA working to promote and better profile theagricultural sector.We will conclude by quoting the winner of the YoBloCo Awards in the individualcategory, Nawsheen Hosanally, holder of a Bachelor in agriculture. After theannouncement of the results, she wrote this revealing notes on her blog: “Through this blog, I believe that Agriculture can be made attractive to other youths like me and by sharing my experiences, they would be able to see what it is like being in the agricultural sector, for one cannot understand agriculture until he/she gets involved in it. Also, the information which is shared may be useful to people in Agriculture (Mauritius and other countries as well). Since the launch of the YoBloCo Awards, the page views of the blog have increased, I have got many emails which show the interest of people in agriculture and innovations in this sector, and opportunities and challenges faced by youths in Agriculture have also been highlighted. Moreover, the YoBloCo gave me the opportunity to know some of the youth participants (virtually) and we have been sharing experiences, information and opportunities in Agriculture among ourselves” (Hosenally, 2012).Further analysis could be carried out on a longer term or in the framework of otheractivities to understand how participant blogs are having an impact on a broaderaudience.ReferencesACP Secretariat. (2012). ACP FAQs. [Online] Available from:http://www.acp.int/node/7[Accessed 23th March 2012]ARDYIS Project. (2010). ARDYIS Project - Rationale. [Online] Available from:http://ardyis.cta.int/en/rationale[Accessed 23th March 2012] 18
  19. 19. ARDYIS Project. (2011). YoBloCo Awards: Write a blog on youth and agriculture andwin up to 3,000 Euros! . [Online] Available from:http://ardyis.cta.int/en/blog-competition[Accessed 23th March 2012]ARDYIS Project (2012) Results of the Youth in Agriculture Blog Competition - YoBloCoAwards. [Online] Available from:http://ardyis.cta.int/en/activities/awards/item/136-results-yobloco/136-results-yobloco[Accessed 23th March 2012]Churchill, D. (2009). Educational applications of Web 2.0: Using blogs to supportteaching and learning. British Journal of Educational Technology , 40 (1), 179-183.CTA (2011). Empowering ACP agricultural and rural communities through knowledge.Strategic Plan 2011–15. Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP–EU (CTA), Wageningen.Giustini, D. (2006). How Web 2.0 is changing medicine. BMJ , 333 (7582), 1283-1284.Hosenally, N. (2012). YoBloCo Awards Results: My first Award. [Online] Available from:http://nawsheenh.blogspot.com/2012/03/yobloco-awards-results-my-first-award.html[Accessed 23th March 2012]IPAO (2008). Usages innovants des TIC en Afrique : La presse au coeur de l’analyse.Institut Panos Afrique de l’Ouest, IPAO, Dakar / OSIWA, Dakar.SPC-PAFPNet (2010). Pacific Youth in Agriculture Strategy 2011-2015. The Secretariatof the Pacific Community (SPC) in collaboration with the Pacific Agricultural andForestry Policy Network (PAFPNet).Thackeray, R. M. H. (2010). Empowering Youth: Use of Technology in Advocacy toAffect Social Change. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 15 (4), 575 - 591.Endnotes1 Ken Lohento, a national of Benin, is ICT4D Programme Coordinator at the Technical Centre forAgricultural and Rural Co-operation ACP-EU (CTA). For about 15 years, he collaborated in variouscapacities on ICT uses and policies for development, with organizations such as the Panos Institute West 19
  20. 20. Africa (PIWA) in Senegal, UNESCO (France), Oridev Association (Benin) and the Association forProgressive Communications (APC). Among other activities at CTA, he manages the ARDYIS projectwhich focuses on youth and ICTs. He holds a master of research in information sciences. Email:lohento@cta.int ; Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/lohento.2 Giorgio Bellinzas studied Social Sciences in Italy and Germany and obtained an MSc degree in ICTsfor Development at the University of Manchester, UK. Currently working at the Technical Centre forAgricultural and Rural Co-operation ACP-EU (CTA), ICT4D programme, his main interests of researchare ICTs for agricultural development and e-Government applications for transparency.Email: bellinzas@cta.int; Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/giorgio-bellinzas/7/896/9483 The partner organizations are the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), African Network forAgriculture, Agroforestry and Natural Resources Education (ANAFE), Pacific Agriculture and ForestryPolicy Network (PAFPNet), Caribbean farmers’ Network (CAFAN), Yam-Pukri association, African YouthFoundation (AYF).4 ACP, meaning “Africa, Caribbean and Pacific”, refers to a group of 79 member states. For moreinformation cf. ACP Secretariat, 2012.5 All the information in the ARDYIS Website and in the YoBloCo Awards Special Blog are alwayspublished both in English and in French.6 The jury was composed of: (1) Ms. Dorothy K. Gordon (Director-General of the Ghana-India Kofi AnnanCentre of Excellence in ICT, Ghana); (2) Dr. Assogbadjo Achille Ephrem (Researcher and lecturer at theFaculty of Agronomic Sciences of the University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin); (3) Mr. Peter Ballantyne(Head of Knowledge Management and Information Services at the International Livestock ResearchInstitute).7 92 entries were received in total but 1 had been received too late and thus has not been considered.8 The eligible blogs were actually 15. As only one entry from Central Africa was received, this entry wasnot formally in competition for the regional prize, but it was nevertheless included in the announcementand a special recognition has been awarded to this institution, which has been invited to attend the prizegiving ceremony.9 http://ardyis.cta.int/yobloco10 A committee composed of CTA and ARDYIS Project’s Advisory Committee representatives, monitoredthe identification of finalists.11 Clarity and quality of language, originality of posts (written or not by the blogger), frequency of posting,quality and consistency of original posts, presence of comments from readers and replies from theblogger, presence of agricultural related content, presence of information on the organizations activities(related to agriculture and youth), presence of youth in agriculture related content, presence of blogfeatures (adequate presence of widgets, plug-ins, presentation of the blogger, links etc.), overall look andfeel (adequate multimedia, attractiveness of graphics, legibility of posts, etc.).12 This part of the paper is partly based on data gathered by Andrianjafy Rasoanindrainy for CTA. 20
  21. 21. 13 See for example the original poem “To your warm embrace we return…”, about agriculture andadoptions of new tools such as ICTs (http://poeticfarmer.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/to-your-warm-embrace-we-return/).14 http://bujajeunesseagri.wordpress.com/2011/09/23/les-defis-des-jeunes-agriculteurs-au-burundi/15 http://poeticfarmer.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/catching-farmers-young/16 http://youngagropreneur.wordpress.com/2011/09/21/challenges-facing-youth-in-agriculture/17 http://bujajeunesseagri.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/agriculture-et-elevage-au-burundi-defis-et-solutions/18 http://youngagropreneur.wordpress.com/2011/09/21/challenges-facing-youth-in-agriculture/19 http://nawsheenh.blogspot.com/2012/04/youth-employment-and-comprehensive.html20 http://wwwinfonet-biovision-wereh.blogspot.com/2011/07/embracing-videos-for-extension.html21 http://wwwinfonet-biovision-wereh.blogspot.com/2011/11/interview-of-week-48-hudson-shiraku.html22 http://agricinghana.wordpress.com/ 21

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