Invited to present a paper at the second Annual Nkwabi Ngwanakilala Investigative Business Environment Media Conference held last week, everything that could go wrong did and, it was only hours earlier on the same day that the paper that was to be presented that I sat down to prepare 10 slides summary of my paper.
To say it was short on the heavy stuff that an academic paper needed to pass the threshold of publishing would be an understatement and, the presence of seasoned social political analyst Jenerali Ulimwengu, veteran journalist Ndimara Tegambwage and so many PhD holders in one room, made the task all the more “sintofahamu”- a venture into the unknown.
The theme of the conference was “The Impact of Media Reporting towards Innovative Agricultural Developments in Tanzania” and I had selected to tackle a sub-theme Social Media & Amp-the branding of Agriculture Products.
Without the benefit of time, I launched onto presenting my 10-point power point presentation whose title was, Sexing Up Agriculture through Social Media for our youth.
The argument this paper made was that our youth in Tanzania, as elsewhere on the continent and the world, are spending a lot of valuable “farming time” in the virtual farmland that social media has become.
The paper further argues that considering that we have a serious aging farming population problems with the majority of our farmers in the country and continent tipping the age scales at over 40 but nearing more 70, we face a problem of feeding the nation whose population in another 30 years may well rise to 80 million plus.
In the meantime, our youth are not busy in the farms but are busy on Mack Zuckerberg’s virtual farmland, a.k.a Facebook pages posting photos about their latest pet peeve and on Instagram following socialites, while gushing on every shopping trip socialists and artists make to city’s numerous shopping complexes. Nothing, literally nothing, prepared me for the controversy that this paper stirred not so much because of its content but because of its title.
A veteran Professor suggested that the papers title remove the word sex-up and suggested an alternative, spruce up or some such other non-controversial and peace time word.
I will tell you what, sexing up our agriculture practice is what we need. Sex-it up because thus far who have failed to brand our agriculture but furthermore, we have failed to do the bolts and nuts jobs that our agriculture needs right up there from farmer friendly policies, that ensure that farmers get value for their sweat at the farm gate rather than sweat to feed a nation and remain paupers to their graves.
It is a value chain condemned to poverty and destitution to be a farmer.
The politicians feed on your servitude, the businessmen up the value chain have you to thank and the town dwelling middle class belches their distended bellies on the drops of your sweat.
Dr Peter Mataba’s two point discussion of the now controversial paper sent me back to the drawing board, but they have made a significant contribution towards ensuring that if and when the paper is finally published, it will become part of the narrative that we need to keep alive the narrative of how do we use social media to ensure interest does not wane (even further) by our young people in the back bone of our nation, agriculture.
As Ulimwengu and Tegambwage argued with justification, sexing up as used in the paper, had no connotation, was never about falling into the pornography that some speakers suggested or even suggested may be discerned.
While we are at it, it was merely a figurative way of bringing attention to the fact that there is need to first revamp our agriculture and two, dress it in less traditional out-dated garb but upping its brand equity, and hey, this last part is not even part of my presentation controversial paper but the contribution and all credit to MCL Executive Editor Bakari Machumu. So then, lets sex it up and see our agriculture brand equity grow.