Even Miley Cyrus can never make farming cool!
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Recently, in my country, there has been a campaign geared towards encouraging young people from Kenya and East Africa to embrace farming as a profession under the banner of “farming is cool”. The campaign encompassed using one of Kenyas young and hip celebrity (Juliani) who has a very large following doing a tour and exposing successful farming ventures by other young people. It also involves Amiran (main Sponsors) promoting their merchandise to the audience. I cannot authoritatively report on the failures or successes of this project, but one thing I know is that the tag line is very ambitious. “Farming is cool”, it’s almost an oxymoron.
Farming and coolness are two very distinct elements, they exist in totally different worlds. It would take millions of dollars in marketing and advertising to be able to make farming cool. The campaign has not come any closer to making farming cool, but it has however been successful to bringing out the potential benefits that farming promises. I attended one of the forums when they came to Nairobi, and I loved the whole experience and even got really motivated to the point where I seriously thought about venturing into farming.
I am taking serious issues with the branding of the whole project. I was told that sometimes we lose the message in the method. In the end, we make a potentially successful project seem flawed. I would rather they talked about how farming works or how farming is profitable but not cool. This brings me to the point about how development approaches sometime fail because of our branding and colossal lack of attention to details. As much as this project was targeting young people, it totally portrayed them as being superficial and as individuals who care more about surface perception than on results.
To any practitioner out there, just because you are developing a project for youth, it does not mean that you purely focus on the conventional definition of coolness or lack of it to sell your idea. We are very much interested in substance, and I would always choose financial benefits over coolness any day.
Farming can never be cool, but it will always promise good returns. And when we want to get African youth into farming, we should not use a mindset that portrays them as being overly superficial to attract them. We need to focus on the reasons and the results, and then brand our initiatives/ interventions based on that. I am sure even Miley cyrus, with her classy personality could not hack such an impossible task. I don’t think Kim Kardashian would, either.