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E-forum: Possible YouthInAg dynamics post COVID-19

On 21st of May 2020, YPARD Philippines hosted an E-Forum with the same title promoted on social media with the hashtag - #YouthInAgPostCOVID.

This was organized in partnership with Dream Agritech Consultancy Services, and co-presented by YPARD Global and WhyFarm. The YPARD Steering Committee Chair, Marina Cherbonnier and the YPARD Director, Yemi Adeyeye alongside Alpha Sennon of WhyFarm served as guest speakers. Jim Cano, YPARD Philippines Country Representative, served as the web discussion’s moderator along with Dakila Olfindo of Dream Agritech.

The web discussion aimed to map out the possible dynamics of youth-in-agriculture post-COVID-19 given the trends and current status. To do so, four questions were tackled during the e-forum: 

  1. How has COVID-19 affected you, young people in your community or the young people in your network in terms of food access, availability, and affordability? 
  2. Is there any noticeable spark of interest among your communities, especially young people, towards agriculture during the pandemic?
  3. How do you think the dynamics of engaging youth in agriculture and for agriculture will look like after COVID-19 in these three aspects: business, policy, academia/research/extension?
  4. What can youth-in-agriculture organizations do post COVID-19 to continue to boost youth engagement in and for agriculture?

These questions along with questions from the comment threads of both Facebook and YouTube were actively tackled by the speakers. Make sure to check the recording of the e-forum.

Numbers and insights

The level of engagement with the use of a live-streaming platform has helped reach wider audiences from across the globe without having to fly speakers or delegates around to participate in such a discussion. 

During the live-stream of the web discussion, there were about 64 “peak live viewers”; 3,200 3-second Video Views that approximately 3,200 looked into what the video was all about for 3 seconds; and, a level of 404 for the post’s engagement which covers the “likes, reactions, comments, and shares” (240 total reactions, 56 shares, 112 comments). Demographics-wise, 53% of the viewers were men, while 46% were women, with an age range of 18 to 65+ years old.

Although the data available does not allow us enough room for inference, we can take into consideration possible implications.  So, what do these mean for us? This means that online discussions allow us to reach more people from different regions of the world and even from within one country while retaining the content (videorecording) for future use so that anyone who would be interested on the internet could find the content generated from the live web discussion.

It is also crucial to note that even the questions and comments of the audience are recorded for future viewers to see so that they can understand the context of the specific part of the discussion as well as observe the feedback of audience during the time of the live-stream. The latter point is something that is hardly captured when in face-to-face conferences, especially large ones, where people who may have thoughts and questions cannot raise their ideas and be recorded. 

There are also several challenges to using live-streaming platforms for web discussions. One is the fact that only those with internet connectivity can join in the discussion. According to recent data, only about 59% of the global population is connected to the internet. This posits a challenge, especially because the nature of most of our discussions pertaining to rural development, yet many of our target audiences supposedly reside in remote areas without internet connectivity. 

Another challenge is “Audience Retention”. Because of the nature of social media and other online platforms, most people would “scroll through” and listen in to parts of the discussion only and not the whole. The challenge, therefore, is to make sure that our content is “laymanized”, understandable, direct to the point, and pragmatic if we are to reach an online audience. Should the discussion be technical in nature, then most likely, the language will only resound with those who are familiar with the technical concepts and jargons. It is very crucial to know who your target audience is so that you can frame your web discussion and questions appropriately, decide the type of speakers you want to invite, as well as which platform to use. 

Lastly, if we want our online discussions to “sell”, there are several factors to consider. One aspect that many technical (and I mean academic or scientific) people miss is the importance of having a well-designed publicity material as well as graphic designs for the online discussion’s screen. I may not be an expert on graphic design, but it’s important to have something that catches young people’s eyes, and something that’s direct to the point in terms of;

  • what the online discussion will be all about, 
  • what time it will take place (very crucial now that people from around the world could tune in to your live stream), and 
  • where (which platform will the online discussion be streamed on). 

Another aspect is “feedback”. If you want to improve how you organize, facilitate, and deliver your online discussion, it’s important to have some form of feedback mechanism, where people can say;

  • what they liked about the livestream, 
  • where and what you can improve on, 
  • where did they hear about your Livestream, and 
  • would they recommend you and your future livestreams to friends, family and colleagues. 

Utilizing online platforms for continuous youth-in-ag engagement

COVID-19 has brought about a “new normal” which is changing the landscapes of how we engage with fellow youth-in-agriculture, actors or stakeholders. The utilization of online platforms, not only to share static information has changed drastically. 

In the past, YPARD in partnership with GFAR had organized a series of Social Media Bootcamps to prepare YPARDians to better utilize social media platforms for promoting youth engagement in agriculture.

But alas, the seasons have changed, and many of our engagements will rely heavily on the use of online platforms to share ideas, create spaces for discussion, and promote campaigns and advocacies. With live-streaming platforms becoming more common in the new normal, audiences online are not merely listeners and spectators but can be active participants in the online discussions. 

These cannot completely replace face-to-face discussions which are crucial when engaging people for agricultural development; however, our reality has changed with the pandemic. Just as we strive for our global agri-food systems to become resilient, so should our dynamics adapt so that we can continue to engage people in conversations and promote our campaigns for youth-in-agriculture.

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Thursday, 18 April 2024

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