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How can we make agriculture more attractive to young people in Africa?

Posted by Roxanna Samii Tuesday, September 27, 2011

by Anna Spiteri


Rob Burnet very aptly entertained the audience at the Fair Share this morning by weaving a well told story about the characters he helped create in the ever popular comic series in Kenya.

Searching for ideas in the media space amidst election tensions in the country, he realised that half of the Kenyan population of 39 million, were under 18 years old, and that nobody was reaching these youths. So the story of Boy or DJB evolved...a young man, clever, unemployed..without tertiary education..and living on the peripheral slums in Nairobi... Rob told us that ...DJB did not want to join his friends who left school and eventually turned into gangsters....because he had a secret...in his bedroom he had built an FM radio, called shu jazz. And every evening he broadcasted to other young listeners, all young, young girls and boys determined to make things better for themselves, rather than succumb to ganghood.

So together with DJB other characters were invented and a whole team came together to produce stories with a message in a comic format, 32 pages long on recycled paper...with excerpts appearing in the Daily Nation. The whole team of script writers and graphic artists are all young talented people from 18 to 23 years old, many of them coming from the slums..so they have first hand knowledge of the stories they portray. They also go and test their stories in the field..in spaces where the young people they are portraying actually live...The 10 million comics produced so far are very popular with young kids and are written in the new speak of the Kenyan youth....This success led to the setting up of a dynamic show ...where smses and phone ins and jokes are all part of the show with a record of 97 million contacts since last year and 45000 conversations a day. There are 20 FM stations every day reaching half of Kenya s youth with tens of thousands of sms messages streaming in .....creating this level of illusion in a cyber space where this young man and his friends live... a magical world...carried away with a good story..with a message...

Rob understood that young people are not interested in development talk..they are interested in having fun and making money.....as his encounters with groups of young people in rural spaces taught him...but he found a way...He showed excerpts from the comics where the story ends with a message inserted inside the story.....messages on planting seeds ; or how to vaccinate baby chicks against the Newcastle disease or how important it is to soak your seeds!

His final shot was a Chicken of Change...also a character in a comic ...giving the messge that more attention should be given to livestock..partly aimed at the government to do more about livestock. Rob messages were simple...but very important for anyone who wants to follow in his steps 1. It s not the what..it’s the how.....it s urgent and it needs to happen 2. Push does not work..it has to be Pull.. 3. Research must go all the way to the user 4. Need to communicate, it does not happen by accident...requires professional media people ; and money. One needs to invest to achieve impact.....

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