Three weeks to go (as at time of first publication) before the launch of the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week, and the energy among the ranks of social reporters is palpable. A very active community will support the efforts of those communicating from the event and its overall importance to African agriculture – and many of the members of this community have yet not even met! They are the virtual supporters of the social media efforts for AASW6 supported by CTA, GFAR, YPARD and the CGIAR Consortium.
The energy is palpable and contagious, the numbers speak for themselves. Three weeks to go and an army of over 140 social reportersfrom all walks of life and all corners of the world are already researching, preparing, writing… Some of them will travel to Accra and participate in person, others will be behind the scenes hard at work to ensure those not be able to travel to Accra can still engage, have a voice, be able to listen to what is happening.
But why is the CGIAR Consortium, yet again, engaged in such efforts one may ask?
CGIAR boasts 40 years of history in progress in agriculture research, many lives have been touched, many stories can be told. But our work does not stop there. To continue to be relevant we need to do our part in building up the next generation of agricultural research scientists. And it’s not just about science. Doing good research is also about engaging end users so that you are actually delivering products and services that meet their needs. It’s building the trust of the community. It is about being able to listen and be heard. It is about having a voice.
And this has always been our drive! Using innovative social media tools to empower those who would otherwise not have a voice, those who want to engage, be part of a larger community, build their networks, make the research information and knowledge they generate publicly accessible to all. The technology of the 21st century can make the walls around scientists crumble.
At the beginning this was just a dream, one that met not insignificant resistance. Social media tools as ways to engage, disseminate and communicate were perceived as not-fit-for-purpose in a large international agriculture research partnership. But now… the results show that social media can be very powerful tools of democracy, and that our intuition was correct. Earlier limited to communicators, now social media tools are in the hands of scientists and researchers alike. Many CGIAR Research Programs use blogs to document their work, as it happens, to ask for feedback and to engage in rich conversations, to disseminate their work, they use twitter to reach groups and communities they could not reach before andto launch campaigns. Their online footprint is increasing every day.
Every day the army of empowered scientists, active players in the online arena, grows. We are enabling more folks engaged in agriculture to get connected, to build trusted networks, to have a voice. Our focus is on youth, but our efforts span beyond.
If we want to build a food secure future we need to empower young and no-so-young with the tools to work in the 21st Century, be better connected, and spread our voice as long-standing advocates of agricultural issues… AASW6 is showing that demand is there!