Award-winning Kenyan hip-hop artist and ONE member Juliani is bringing the DO AGRIC campaign to life in East Africa. He’s travelling across the region talking to farmers, youth, media, and decision-makers about why we need to invest in agriculture now.
As a campaign, DO AGRIC really resonates with me. For some time now, I’ve been committed to spreading the gospel about agribusiness as a real solution to poverty and unemployment. Using music, in 2013, my Farming is Cool initiative promoted and supported small-scale agriculture for youth across Kenya.
So joining the ONE Campaign’s DO AGRIC initiative was a natural fit.
I am excited that some of Africa’s most renowned personalities, including D’banj and Yaya Touré, have joined the campaign, too. When we join together like this to support agribusiness, youth across Africa will see the potential in farming — and how to make the investments we need for a thriving agriculture sector.
I challenge African youth to really rethink how they perceive agriculture and get familiar with its amazing potential as a business. In Kenya, we have all the ingredients we need to achieve success in agriculture. Fertile soil, access to water, hardworking farmers – there is really no reason for anyone to go hungry.
Meeting banana farmers
I travelled to Kirinyaga to meet with farmers. I wanted to find out, where are the needs and challenges for small-scale farmers? What would strategic investment in the agriculture sector in Kenya look like?
I met with members of the Rumiini and Karinga Banana Growers Self-Help Groups, who have come together to grow bananas, because they each own less than an acre of land.
I realised, farmers need to become informed and organised. In today’s Kenya, they have access to the information and networks to do so. Governments need to deliver on their promises to invest in agriculture, but it’s up to the farmers to create a strong foundation through their own efforts, which will compel and lead the government to effective and strategic policy and practice for the agriculture sector.
In Kirinyaga, I found that small-scale farmers are committed and putting in good effort. And they are getting by. But they need to go beyond a day-to-day, hand-to-mouth living from their crops and land. If they really want to build a viable industry, small-scale farmers needs to professionalise.
They need to become strategic and build stronger businesses, the kind of businesses that make serious investments on their farms.
Right now, young people see agriculture as the way their parents and grandparents can make a living. Instead of joining the sector, they move to urban areas, or are still on the farm, but waiting to come to Nairobi.
What is it that farmers and potential farmers need? They have to know what they want themselves. First, they need to create something for themselves, and then they can make the demands on government to help them go further.
That is, farmers need to see the opportunity to do better, to create a vibrant space for themselves, which will leave the government no choice but to recognise and support them.
I met one particularly impressive woman in Kirinyaga. She was well informed and very articulate about her work. She talked about what elements would add value to her banana-growing efforts. This is where we need farmers to get to.
Live Twitter chat with D’banj
Online, to mark the launch of the DO AGRIC campaign, I took part in a live Twitter chat along with D’banj, answering questions and talking about the potential for agriculture in Africa.
Stopping traffic in Nairobi
Back in Nairobi, we decided to make some noise on the streets with a creative activation. Our teams of volunteers distributed over 1,000 tomatoes and 3,000 flyers about the DO AGRIC campaign to motorists and pedestrians during morning rush hour traffic.
Commuters had never seen such a sight on the streets of Nairobi. Lorry drivers, matatus and buses, professionals of every kind — everyone was very curious and eager to receive these small packages. The volunteers wore matching tomato t-shirts. Leaflets talked about the campaign. Of course, the produce was grown by small-scale Kenyan farmers.
Making headlines in the media
This past week since the launch, through national media interviews, I have been able to discuss these issues across Kenyan society. I have been reaching millions of people, sharing my experiences, and spreading the word about the campaign — and getting the message out.
I have had a chance to be interviewed on Citizen TV, KISS FM Radio, KTN morning show and Str8Up Live youth TV show, 1FM radio shows, and more. Soon, I will get to talk with Jeff Koinange on his signature talk show on KTN.
The response from youth across Kenya has been really encouraging. Youth are getting in touch with me by Twitter, email, on the street, everything. They are asking good questions, and they want to get connected to resources to help them pursue small-scale agriculture, or related kinds of jobs, the ancillary industries that are also a big part of building a strong agriculture sector. The conversation online is growing. Well-known journalists are amplifying these issues across social media.
Even Nairobi’s governor and senator stepped in with tweets to support the effort.
This is just a starting point. If we are really going to see results, we need to get serious, push and amplify this campaign, and make sure all the pieces are in place — such as informed small-scale farmers guiding government into responsive action — for greater investment to work.
If we’re able to continue and deepen this kind of collaboration across the continent, then we can raise the level of public attention exponentially and see real results from our efforts: governments across Africa meeting their commitments to make significant and effective investments in the agriculture sector.
Over the next few months, I’ll be doing even more to get Kenyans on board and taking action with DO AGRIC. Follow me on Twitter to see how far we can go.