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A passion for storytelling about youth in African agribusiness

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Nawsheen Hosenally (right) wants to change the narrative, and show the real picture of agriculture

by Nawsheen Hosenally

Blog

In 2016, Inoussa Maïga and I founded Agribusiness TV, the first web TV to target African youth engaged in agricultural entrepreneurship. Our objective was to make agriculture more attractive to young people by showcasing stories about people who have successfully launched agribusiness start-ups. Today, with more than 100 videos from 12 African countries, Agribusiness TV has carved a reputation as a channel that highlights youth success stories in agriculture. How did we do it? Let’s take a look behind the scenes.

Agriculture connecting people

A journalist by training, Inoussa Maïga decided to focus on agriculture, since his country, Burkina Faso, is highly dependent on the sector, with more than 80% of the population engaged in it. He saw writing about agriculture as a way of giving visibility to stories from the field that did not generally feature in the traditional media. I myself had been born and raised in an urban area, and my first real contact with agriculture was at university, when I decided to study agricultural extension for my Bachelor’s degree in my native Mauritius. That is where my passion for the subject developed. For me, working in agriculture was a way to tackle important challenges like hunger and poverty. What Inoussa and I had in common was of course, agriculture, and the fact that we participated in competitions and training sessions organised by CTA at a very early stage in our careers. We were both winners of the Youth in Agriculture Blog Competition (YoBloCo Awards), which CTA organised in 2011 and 2013. And we were both trained in the use of web 2.0 and social media for development by CTA-led initiatives.

The launch of Agribusiness TV

Fast forward to 2015, when Inoussa and I were married and I moved to Burkina Faso. Together, we decided to launch Agribusiness TV, a web TV dedicated to showcasing success stories of young agricultural entrepreneurs in Africa. The idea was to tell inspiring stories through video, in the hope that it would have greater impact. We were fortunate to win a competitive grant from CTA, which helped to fund implementation of our project. There was a great deal of preparatory work involved. The first thing we did was to bring together a team with different skills – journalism, communication, editing, translation, web and social media management. We met in February 2016 for an inception workshop, where team members from different countries got to know each other, and we established the editorial line, workflows, and online communication channels. Next, we worked on creating the online platforms: social networks, website, and mobile applications. Finally, in May 2016, Agribusiness TV was officially launched, with videos from four countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire – all available in English and French on mobile phones through our web and mobile applications.

Early success and visibility

Agribusiness TV was well received and rapidly attracted a large audience. In the first 6 months, our videos had already clocked up 1 million views. Gradually, we expanded from four to 12 African countries. Our model involves identifying correspondents who are professional journalists based in the countries that we cover. They propose a subject to the chief editor, and once validated, they conduct the video interviews. All the video files are sent to Agribusiness TV’s office in Burkina Faso, where the translation, editing, publishing and promotion are handled. In 2 years, Agribusiness TV has produced more than 100 videos, which have been viewed over 8 million times. For us, these figures represent a success that greatly exceeds our initial expectations. More importantly, the impact that the initiative is having on people’s lives is quite remarkable. The entrepreneurs profiled in our videos are between 18-40 years-old and obtain massive visibility once their story is published on our platforms. Some videos have had more than 100,000 views in less than 24 hours. As a result, the experienced entrepreneurs are contacted by other aspiring young entrepreneurs wanting mentorship. Some of the more experienced entrepreneurs have gone on to develop consultancy services, helping others to start or upscale a similar agribusiness. Others have been invited to attend meetings with policy-makers to represent young entrepreneurs, thereby helping to ensure that young people’s voices are heard. Others still have been approached by investors, and been able to expand their business. We receive a great many messages from aspiring youth entrepreneurs who are planning to, or have started a business in agriculture. To document these stories, we have partnered with CTA with the aim of producing a booklet, due to be released in 2019.

Lessons learned

Changing perceptions is a long-term process, and much remains to be done if agriculture is to be attractive to youth. But I think that our work with Agribusiness TV has been a first step in the right direction. We have learned a number of lessons along the way. First, we did not just wake up one day and decided to start a web TV. Our prior work experience and training opportunities in agriculture and communication gave us the knowledge and skills to come up with the idea and put it into practice. Second, to make such a project work, you need a good team, with complementary skills. You also need leadership, managerial and business skills. Third, we have learned that if Agribusiness TV is to be sustainable, we need to find new revenue streams and services. Today, we no longer rely on grants and on working as a service provider for multimedia production. We are collaborating with a national TV station in Burkina Faso to produce a fortnightly TV magazine, and aim to generate revenue through publicity as a result. And we are constantly working to build partnerships for video production and co-production. Lastly, behind the success of Agribusiness TV is our passion for storytelling. Our drive is to change the narrative, and show the real picture of agriculture – one that is not reported in the mainstream media.

This article was created through a CTA-led process to document and share actionable knowledge on 'what works' for ACP agriculture. It capitalises on the insights, lessons and experiences of practitioners to inform and guide the implementation of agriculture for development projects.

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