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Paying it forward in Social Media for Agriculture

"As a social media trainer, I love to inspire others. But when the trainees, in their turn, become trainers, that takes it to another level. That's why I love working with YPARD youth. They not only take the knowledge in, but share it with others. This snowball effect is really what capacity building is all about." - Peter Casier, GFAR Social Media Coordinator.

"As a social media trainer, I love to inspire others. But when the trainees, in their turn, become trainers, that takes it to another level. That's why I love working with YPARD youth. They not only take the knowledge in, but share it with others. This snowball effect is really what capacity building is all about." - Peter Casier, GFAR Social Media Coordinator.

Jim Cano and Dax Olfindo members of Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD) Philippines were trained in Thailand last December 2015 during a Global Forum for Agricultural Research (GFAR)-hosted Social Media Training.This was a back-to-back event with the High Level Policy Dialogue on Investment in Agricultural Research for Sustainable Development in the Asia-Pacific Region, which was hosted by the Asia Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI).

Fast forward to a month after that, we have now became the Social Media trainers in the Philippines.The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquaculture, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) in cooperation with YPARD Philippines recently hosted a Social Media Training on Jan 12-13, 2016 at the William D. Dar Hall at PCAARRD Headquarters, Los Baños, Laguna.

This training was conceived by Dr. Virginia Cardenas, who was inspired by the training in Bangkok, to conduct a similar program in the Philippines for research and development practitioners in the field of Agriculture and Aquatics. Through the help and support of Dr. Rey Ebora and Dr. Danilo Cardenas, and the staff of the Applied Communications Division of PCAARRD, 43 people were trained: 30 from PCAARRD, 11 from YPARD Philippines, and 2 from College of Public Affairs, University of the Philippines at Los Baños.

                                                                   The training in progress

                                         A panoramic view of the social media training participants

With the permission of Peter Casier, Dax and I were able to share what they have learned during their stay in Bangkok. Here’s a conversation between Dax and I as we reflect on the training.

Dax: Quite an experience we had there, wouldn’t you say Jim? For you, what was the hardest part of preparing for this re-echo?

Jim: One of the challenging parts of the preparation was the lining up of the learnings from the Bangkok training, and thinking about how to convey them effectively to a group of people who are new to you. What about you, Dax?

Dax: This was the first time for me to facilitate anything! I am comfortable being the receiver, the listener. To speak in front of a crowd for an extended period of time was nerve-wracking. Fortunately, I was able to hold onto my wits. Haha!

Jim: Hahaha! This is the first of many, so definitely there will be more opportunities for us to practice. Hopefully, there will be avenues where our fellow YPARD Ph members will also be able to share their knowledge on specific fields of interest in relation to agricultural development.

Dax: It was indeed a great opportunity, to have been the trainees and now facilitating the training. I think that is what YPARD is all about, equipping the youth in order to help and equip others. What do you think?

Jim: Yes! Indeed! The way I see it is that information sharing and dissemination is very crucial especially in the field of agriculture. The impact of sharing what we learn can empower communities exponentially and this is what we hope to happen in the sector; and this is what YPARD aims to be, a platform, an avenue, a group that will take innovations in agriculture that are existing or are being developed and broadcast it through the energy of young professionals at the national, regional and global level.

                                                               Selfie with the YPARDph Members

Dax: It can create a ripple effect that will be felt by many if we are able share information freely.The group that we handled during the training was quite big, definitely bigger than the group that we had in Bangkok. The group was also very diverse.

Jim: We had approximately 40 trainees. Some of these were senior, some seasoned communications people, and honestly, the thoughts in my head were, "What if people question the validity of what we were teaching? Do we have enough authority to speak on this topic given that we attended a one-day training only?”

I believe that's one of the many challenges among young professionals: self-doubt; and we have to overcome it, because we are capable and we have the capacity.

                                                                         End of Day 1

Dax: I think that the material spoke for itself. The Peter Buckets (plethora of social media tools) worked like a charm, allowing us to make the audience realize that what we speak of is something that we have learned and not something that we just came up with. The training in Bangkok played a huge role in what we did. You can actually say that this was just an extension, a spin-off, of what happened in Bangkok.
Yes, by allowing the youth to be equipped and attend capacity building activities like the Social Media Training, it greatly helps our sector. It allows us to have a voice, a voice worth listening to.

Jim: Indeed, and even if we only attended the one-day training, I believe that the experience of live tweeting and writing blogs for the two-day High Level Policy Dialogue organized by APAARI and GFAR was enough to give us substantial knowledge that we could share to people in the scientific community.

Dax: That practical part of the training was just so intense. Like the saying goes, you cannot get a diamond without putting enough pressure on it and I believe that pressure, turned out to be something that helped us imbibe all that we learned during the course of the training.
So now, looking forward, what role do you see social media play in Agricultural Development?

Jim: Social media is only one of the countless technological advances that can be used to further the agricultural development agenda. Imagine if we have YPARD members maximizing their knowledge by disseminating it and aiming to see communities transformed. That is the ultimate goal.

Dax: Technological advancement is rendered moot, if it doesn’t reach the end user, the farmer. Social media can be that platform. Social media can also help by bridging communication gaps between different research institutions around the world. It can be a place where these experts can openly share their ideas and collaborate on projects; something that was quite impossible before the advent of this technology. A scientist from the American continent can now work closely with someone from Asia, Europe with Africa and so on. That is how we should view Social Media, a bridge that can connect us all.

Jim: Research is useless if it is not used to positively affect communities. Hopefully, with the availability of social media, technologies can be disseminated more effectively and efficiently to reach the general public.

Dax: So the good deed (the GFAR Social Media Training) that was done to us, we did our best to pass onto others (PCAARRD-YPARD Philippines-CPaf, UPLB). The snowball effect that Peter wanted to see has been realized. I just hope that more opportunities come up for the youth to participate in capacity building workshops, because I believe, that it is our duty; the young ones, the fresh legs, to disseminate the information passed onto us by the experts who have paved the way for us.

Jim: I believe the way to make a sustainable impact is by creating a culture of paying it forward in the scientific community. Capacity building workshops will deliver more if we encourage trainees to become trainers in their own spheres of influence. Our hope is that those who were trained will take those lessons, apply it and share it as well. Social media is one, but there are a whole lot more topics, skills, processes, that young professionals can take up and bring farther by paying it forward. So for the reader, whatever skill you acquired or have that can further agricultural development, hone it and share it, and encourage those you’ve shared it with to...PAY IT FORWARD.

Blogpost by Jim Cano and Dax Olfindo
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Photo credits: Eric Sanchez (PCAARRD) and Jim Cano (YPARD Philippines)