While agriculture has been categorized as the largest economic sector in most African countries by several studies, offering opportunities for poverty alleviation for youth on the continent, there is still a low percentage of youth involvement in the sector and 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 and this has been linked to a lack of access to agricultural market information.
The IFAD-sponsored study which explores how policymakers can promote ICT to make agriculture market information accessible for youth in rural Tanzania as producers need to be able to locate potential buyers and to 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 the use of mobile phone -information and communications technology (ICT), can raise returns, and make agriculture attractive to more youths in rural Tanzania.
This in turn will greatly 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 to make more and profitable sales.
Part of the study also showed cultural stereotype negatively affecting the use of mobile phones among women, an area that policymakers 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, along with 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 increased access to valuable market information and ease of use.
The mobile phone affords rural farmers access to a large amount of agricultural information that can help improve their farming activities and eventually their livelihoods. It also provides the possibility of linking other parts of the country or the world, for resources that can help their farming practices.
According to Sassi, for widespread adoption of mobile phone –ICT, to occur among young Tanzanian farmers, policymakers need to create enabling conditions which include network service access as well as orientation on the economic benefits of adopting it.