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Mercy Corps turns to WhatsApp to link sustainable agriculture group
By Getrude Lung'ahi
Social media is forming an increasingly central part of how we communicate. The available social media tools have made communication easier, enjoyable, and faster.
Mercy Corps Kenya is innovatively using WhatsApp and Facebook to communicate to its staff and consortium members. This has proven to be an effective and efficient way of organizing workshops, getting feedback and learning from each other.
‘‘I created the WhatsApp group named BRACED Premies because of logistics of a permaculture workshop which was held in Laikipia, Kenya. I needed to get updates from participants on logistics since I was coordinating different groups from Karamoja (Uganda) and Wajir (Kenya),” said Natalie Topa, programme director, Mercy Corps.

Participants of the workshop who are active users of the WhatsApp group include government officials from Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities (MENRRDA) in Kenya, representatives from the Ugandan local government, universities, and consortium partners.
Photos of the training and interesting ideas have been shared on the platform which provided opportunities for knowledge sharing and exchanges among the participants from the two countries.
“The WhatsApp group has been very useful. It has stirred interesting discussions (and) built relations, trust and bonding among the group. People feel more relaxed and chat freely. Interesting layers to partnerships have been formed, feedback on food and accommodation during the workshop was shared and made me feel part of the experience,’’ explained Topa.
Social media tends to build ties and trust. Relations created by the interaction have encouraged the group to continue to use the platform even after the workshop.
Follow-ups on travel logistics and the progress made by each of the members were carried out using the platform. It was evident that social media communication has no protocol and the members were freely chatting with government officials as opposed to face-to-face communication.
So far, key discussions and experiences on the practical application of permaculture interventions in both sites (Karamoja and Wajir) are being shared on WhatsApp.