Blog interview with Salome Tukuafu, Information Communications Management Officer at the Pacific Community (SPC)
A communications campaign led by Salome Tukuafu, during the 2nd Pacific Agribusiness Forum held on 29th August -1st September 2016 in Apia, Samoa leveraged the power of social media to capture and promote voices of farmers and other smallholders from the Agriculture sector to key audiences.
Agriculture is the highest important economic activity for the Pacific island countries – providing income, food and nutrition security to over 8 million people living in the Islands. Smallholder farmers lead production and distribution of staple crops, vegetables, fruits, flowers and nuts for the region. Because of intense market volatility, family farmers are finding hard times selling farm produce to local and international consumers. Meeting platforms in the Pacific have provided an excellent environment for knowledge sharing on marketing approaches, partnership development and opportunities for job creation and innovation but often fail to represent farmer voices or give farmers possible vehicles for information, that speaks to their own audiences at the same time.
A communications campaign led by Salome, ahead of the 2nd Pacific Agribusiness forum held on 29th August -1st September 2016 in Apia, Samoa looking to raise farmer and agricultural smallholder voices through knowledge capturing, sharing and awareness raising on using digital media to link with markets as well as media as an additional vehicle to disseminate messages, assembled social media influencers from the Pacific to capture farmer perspectives during the event and promote information to key audiences relevant to smallholders.
With support from Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the Pacific Agriculture Policy Project (PAPP) under SPC, several social media influencers and youth bloggers from Tonga, Fiji and Samoa (with a combined twitter following of close to 5000 followers) were selected to report at this event.
“The social media reporters and influencers reported on the media ‘talanoa’ (informal) session drawing lessons and representing local perspectives and farmers’ voices on social media. Twitter was effective in capturing knowledge centred around common hashtags with the perspectives of reporters reflecting farmer realities in Fiji, Tonga and Samoa,” said Salome.
Before the event, Salome conducted capacity building where social reporters were trained on using the storyboard technique and storytelling from the angle of knowledge management. “Social media reporters were briefed on conveying the right messages and key contacts to highlight,” She said.
During the event, new social buttons like twitter live provided significant reach and wider engagement around key audiences. Hashtags enabled tracking of conversations that highlighted farmer opinions, areas of interest from twitter audiences and also groupings of conversations via related hashtags.
Activities contributed significantly to power conversations online around smallholder thematics and increase reach around two hashtags #PacAgriBiz and #PacAgriTo with over 800,000 impressions tracked during the forum sessions. This also allowed for stakeholders from across the region, not present at the forum, to effectively search for conversations and discussions during the formal sessions using twitter.
Blog stories produced by some of the social reporters has further documented farmer and smallholder experiences. A lesson Salome learnt going through the activity is that combining social media influencers and traditional media is critical for success. Especially where traditional media is weak and underdeveloped. “It adds a different dynamic to the communications and reporting for the event,” she said.
Blogpost based on Salome Tukuafu’s experience as facilitator and trainer of social media reporters at the ‘2nd Pacific Agribusiness Forum ‘ workshop in Apia, Samoa, on 29th August – 1st September 2016.
The opinions in this piece are the author’s and do not represent those of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation(CTA).