African conference on agricultural science looks for social media volunteers
“It isn’t where you came from,
its where you’re going that counts.”
Few young people raise to a position, early in their career, where they can inspire others and make a change. For those who do, even fewer dare to take the risk then, to stand up, and push for changes.
Idowu Okheren Ejere is one of those few. As a young Nigerian diplomat and researcher, she is presently the Communication and Public Awareness Officer at FARA. Given the opportunity to coordinate the media outreach at the upcoming Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), she took her task as an opportunity to use young people’s enthusiasm for social media, and pull them into the conference’s social reporting team.
One month before the conference, over 100 young professionals are now already part of this team, ceasing the conference as a way to learn new tools, and learning how to integrate these into their daily work.
This is a story how African youth can inspire people, when given the opportunity…
Idowu holds a B.Sc in International Relations from Igbinedion University Nigeria, an M.A in Globalization and Development from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex (UK). She is currently studying for a PhD in Development Studies at the Natural Resources Institute (NRI), University of Greenwich and an MSc Poverty Reduction at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). She also holds several professional certificates from Harvard University and China Agricultural University.
Her career spans the public and private sectors with a keen interest in the research on food security, resource management, conflicts, agrarian change and rural development.
Discovering the power of social media
As a born communicator, she held several social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogger, etc, but used them mostly for personal purposes until last year. In November 2012, she attended the Social Media Training in Uruguay under the auspices of GCARD2. Idowu says this was a turning point in her life as she realized the power of social media: How it could be used to preach the gospel of poverty reduction and food security. At GCARD2, she discovered how social media could foster the goal of Agricultural Research for Development (AR4D) and specifically how social media could be used to get the voices of millions of people across the globe heard in high level discourses.
Implementing social media at the AASW
After GCARD2, she was part of the Planning Committee for the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW). She realized from the previous AASW that one of the challenges was “getting the message out to people outside the usual audiences”, including policy makers, young people and the general public.
With the upsurge in the use of mobile technologies in Africa came the use of social media. Today Facebook is the single largest -virtual- nation outside any country with over 500 million active users. Twitter and Myspace are doing just as well. This “virtual nation” cannot be underestimated in the current architecture of agriculture and food security discourses.
With this in mind she suggested to the FARA Secretariat Organizing Committee to invest in bringing a group of young social reporters to the AASW. They would be trained on social media tools and would report “live”, from the conference. This onsite team would be supported by a virtual team, from all over the world, who would remotely assist this group of “social reporters”.
As great minds think alike, FARA teamed up with CTA, GFAR, CGIAR and YPARD with the common goal to build the capacity of young people as a voice for the role of research in African agricultural development. This “Communication Partnership” culminated in the AASW social media team we have today. This would not have been possible without the support of Prof. Monty Jones of FARA, Dr. Michael Hailu and Mr. Sam Mikenga of CTA, Ms. Marina Cherbonnier of YPARD, Mr. Piers Bocock and Mrs. Enrica Porcari of CGIAR and Mr. Peter Casier.
The role of social media at the AASW
The world is changing and we need to have people from all ends of the world contribute to discourses that involve their future and well-being. Africa is no different, and the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week is no different: At the conference, social media will create an avenue for those who are unable to participate physically at the science week. Social media will allow us to involve more people than merely those present at the conference venue, especially the youth who are easily overlooked in global development discourses.
In this way, social media would allow inclusion, participation and collaborations to achieve the conference’s goal of “Africa feeding Africa through science and innovation”.
The AASW social reporters team is a fast growing virtual team. With over 100 people in the group already, we are already virtually working together to learn the social media tools. way ahead of the conference. The AASW social reporters are now organising webinars and peer-assist sessions, coupling the “experts”, with those eager to learn more. At the same, the team is preparing the conference’s social media outreach via a Google Groups email discussion forum.
Do you want to join this virtual team? Send an email to p.casier(at)cgiar(dot)org, the AASW Social Media Coordinator and we’ll gladly integrate you in our group!