The WSIS Project Prize, an award scheme set up in 2011 by the United Nations, rewards contestants for their efforts in implementing development-oriented strategies that leverage the power of ICTs. With 18 categories, the contest provides a platform to showcase success stories and models that can be easily replicated.
The CTA ARDYIS project is a group of activities aimed at increasing opportunities for youth (18–35 years) in agriculture through ICTs in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and boosting their capacities in using these tools. Key activities include the Youth in Agriculture Blog Competition (YoBloCo Awards) and the AgriHack Talent initiative, which support the development of ICTs/mobile apps and entrepreneurship in agriculture. So far, the project’s activities have reached more than 40 ACP countries and have favoured the development of dozens of agricultural ICT prototypes (with 17 “finalist” prototypes) targeting different segments of agricultural value chains. A total of 296 youth agricultural blogs have been submitted to the YoBloCo Awards, about 4300 people are following the project on Facebook and an external evaluation found that 80% of participants have declared an increase in their professional perspectives. Awareness-raising activities (e-debates, workshops, information dissemination etc.) have developed youth understanding of issues relating to the use of ICTs in agriculture and favoured the creation of a great number of youth entrepreneurial initiatives. The Strengthening Rural Youth Employment Opportunities in ICTs and Agriculture in Southern Africa (SOFIA) project was supported in southern Africa in 2013 and other youth-focused projects are being selected for implementation after a call for proposals was launched some months ago.
“We are very proud of this prize!” said Ken Lohento. “It is also the prize of all the youth who have been participating in the ARDYIS network and who support us with their ideas and contributions. We thank all people who voted for us from many countries of the world and the ARDYIS Advisory Committee for its support. CTA will continue to work hard to enhance youth engagement in agriculture and in ICT for agriculture,” he concluded.
The prize marks the third time that CTA has won a WSIS award. In 2013, the Centre’s Web 2.0 and Social Media Learning Opportunities programme was named winner of the WSIS Project Prizes contest in the e-agriculture category. Again in 2007, jointly with the Locally Managed Marine Area (FLMMA) network, CTA won the WSIS award in the e-culture category for its activities in the domain of Participatory 3D Modelling (P3DM) in Fiji.
Praise from beneficiaries
Among those who have benefited from the ARDYIS project is Tyrone Hall, development specialist from Jamaica focused on ICTs; his Caribbean Climate Blog reports on climate change as a key development challenge in the region. He won the All ACP and Caribbean prizes in the first ARDYIS essay contest in 2010. He also attended s and youth workshops in Ghana and in the Netherlands, and participated in two CTA-run international conferences in Ethiopia and Kenya through ARDYIS support. Hall has since won consultancies with international organisations, including one in Washington DC, and attributes his success to the knowledge and networking skills he acquired through ARDYIS. "ARDYIS has been a superb facilitator of diverse talents emerging," said Hall.
Young Ugandan entrepreneur Opio Obwangamoi David is another beneficiary. Together with partner Gerald Otim, David developed Ensibuuko (called now MOBIS), a mobile and web application that integrates automated SMS and mobile money services to enable savings and credit cooperative societies to handle savings and make loans to smallholder farmers. Their ICT platform won them the top prize in the first ever hackathon of the AgriHack initiative, organised as part of the ARDYIS project in 2013. This initiative offers winners valuable incubation and mentoring, including contact with experts in ICTs and agriculture and potential investors and opportunities to promote their applications (notably through the CTA Plug and Play activity).
"The ICT4Ag hackathon enabled us launch our business," said David. "After being named regional winners for the hackathon, we received 6 months of incubation support at Outbox, an ICTs hub in Kampala, Uganda. We also received mentorship and coaching from various sector leaders." Ensibuuko has now recruited eight staff members, including young women developers. They have attracted various international partners and have diversified their services. They are currently serving and reaching thousands of farmers and rural dwellers in Kenya through credit, mobile and solar services.
In Ghana, Moses Nganwani Tia is Executive Director of the Savannah Young Farmers Network (SavaNet). He has participated in a range of ARDYIS-led events, including workshops, web 2.0 and social media training and the YoBloCo contest, which SavaNet won in 2014 with an award for the best institutional blog on family farming.
"CTA's ARDYIS project is a youth-friendly initiative that offers innovative approaches in engaging the youth in agriculture with ICTs," said Tia. "The project has helped me greatly by developing my professional expertise, enabling me to lead SavaNet in formulating and implementing impact-oriented ICT4Ag projects that promote the active engagement of youth in agriculture."
Nawsheen Hosenally is both a beneficiary of the ARDYIS project and at the same time one of its implementers. She was in her final year studying agriculture at university in Mauritius when she first encountered the project. The knowledge and skills it helped her acquire led to consultancy opportunities with regional organisations in Africa. In 2012, Hosenally went on to win first prize of the YoBloCo Awards and later secured an internship with ARDYIS. Subsequently, she was recruited to the staff of CTA, where she is Junior Programme Associate - ICT4Ag, working mainly on the ARDYIS activities which have further developed.
"Having been on both sides of ARDYIS – both as beneficiary and implementer – I know that, like me, ARDYIS has impacted the lives of many other young people and youth organisations," said Hosenally. "I see the WSIS Award as a motivation to do even more for a greater impact on the lives of ACP youth in ICT4Ag."