Zimbabwe’s urban farmers who lack access to extension officers for farming advice are using social media to share tips and advice.

Issues to be found among the discus­sions range from poultry, horticulture, boreholes, setting up proper facilities, and everything else to keep their en­terprises running.

One such WhatsApp group with over six hundred members has Zimbabwean participants spread all over the world, highlighting not only social media’s reach, but how farmers interested in learning from one another are utilising the platform.

“This is a group of farmers across the world gathered here to give one another tips on farming. You are free to ask anything concerning farming. Anyone with answers is free to give advice,” reads a post from the group’s administrator.

The administrator of the group formed in June this year further warns, “No politics, no church stuff, no hitch­ing, e-creator, no porn,” emphasising the group’s ambitions at a time when such platforms are being used to ped­dle controversial issues.

While professional advice can be hard to come by in the absence of gov­ernment’s agriculture extension offic­ers, it has meant approaching paid-for advisors which can be expensive for many aspiring farmers.

“It helps when you can learn from people who have gone through what you are going through. And these are total strangers, people you will never meet in your life,” said Tamara Sham­bare, a participant in one WhatsApp group for farmers.

Zimbabwe has historically promoted agriculture extension officers who are credited with bringing farming knowledge and expertise to especially rural farmers.

Yet the growth and interest in farm­ing, especially after government began allocating free land, has meant demand for expert advice has also risen.

However, in the absence of such ad­vice, farmers without access to trained farming personnel are creating their own knowledge hubs, with social media pro­viding the springboard for such efforts.

“It is something we actually applaud as it means farmers with experience share their knowledge with others,” said Gilbert Nyamadzayo, an agricul­ture extension officer.

“There is no presence of agritex of­ficers in the cities or urban settings. It is even more difficult for Zimbabweans living outside the country as they can­not access farming expertise from their host countries,” he said.

With such groups thriving and the number of participants growing, it could be a boon for farmers who want to grow their enterprises at no added overhead costs.