by Ejidiah Wangui
NAIROBI, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) -- Gideon Anyona has always monitored activities in his farm using a smart phone while relaxing in his rented apartment located on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
His 15 acre farm, located in a rural Narok county 150 kilometers northwest of Nairobi, has a resident employee but mobile technology has eased the pressure of monitoring the general status of crops planted there.
The 33-year old banker manages his farm from the house, thanks to technology which has for the last few years transformed Kenya's agriculture sector.
Anyona is among a growing army of farmers changing the East African nation's agriculture sector, giving it a new and trendy face. Millions of youth are now venturing into it.
Armed with a smart phone, laptop and the internet, the new crop of farmers have engineered a revolution that has not only changed the perception towards farming but is also contributing to the country's efforts in achieving food security.
"I am a banker by profession, I work at one of leading banks in Kenya but I plan to quit soon and focus on farming full time. This is my third year in farming and I don't regret venturing into it. Farming is no longer the tiring and unrewarding job it was a few years ago. Technology has made it easier to navigate, I for instance don't have any background in agriculture but I'm doing it very well," Anyona told Xinhua.
He has installed different farming applications into his smart phone and this is where he draws all his farming knowledge from. He is also a member of different farming and marketing groups on social media where young farmers exchange information on matters related to agriculture.
Sometimes called "telephone farmers", the new breed of farmers is making use of a growing number of digital platforms to help them choose and manage their crops more efficiently, and without forsaking their city life.
"The app requires the user to answer a few simple questions about their location and the desired type of crop, then says what seed varieties are available, who sells them, and what properties they have, such as maturation periods and drought tolerance," said Anyona.
For John Nasiali, 27, a postgraduate student at the University of Nairobi, farming has been his sole source of income since he completed his first degree in 2014.
In his case, Nasiali uses WeFarm, a short messaging service (SMS) which allows farmers to ask questions about specific problems on their farms, and receive crowd-sourced answers directly from their peers.
"Since I discovered WeFarm, things have never been the same again. Initially I used to rely on my neighbors for information on the best seeds and pesticides. With WeFarm, you get to know the best seeds to grow in your location among other things. Such facilities have made farming more professional and a career like any other," said Nasiali.
More than 80 percent of sub-Saharan Africa's population is engaged in farming, but there are just 70 agricultural researchers for every million people, according to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.
Jane Wanjiru, who grows a variety of crops in her farm, is among the networked generation reaping big from technology.
Wanjiru turned to MbeguChoice last year after seeds she planted failed as they were not fit for the location where her farm is.
"I now know about all the new varieties and where they work, I no longer rely on my peers for such information," she noted.