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The 21st Century Digital Farmer program

Connecting the next 1 Billion: It is not easy, but it is doable!

My attendance and participation at the Internet Governance Forum in Jalisco, Mexico, late last year, made possible with the kind and generous support of AFRINIC, through the Fire Africa program, made me realize that I have a critical role to play, in the global goal of connecting the next 1 billion people into the Internet.

I remembered, as we discussed about connecting the 1 Billion people, that majority of them live in developing countries, especially in Africa, where I come from. I also remembered, that among the people in question, are the same people that I am so passionate about; rural smallholder farmers! It was my childhood passion, and it still is, to empower rural smallholder farmers to reduce their losses and increase their incomes, and thus enable them to take good care of their families. But you realize that rural smallholder farmers are excluded in the Digital world. They are not enjoying the massive benefits that the Internet has made possible for our world.

Farmers in Africa, like farmers around the world, need access to seeds, tools, fertilizers and pest control for optimal production, as well as internet facilities to equip them with new information and modern technologies for pest control and management. Despite the fact that internet plays a critical role in Africa’s social and economic development, including agricultural market platforms, access to new and modern technology agricultural information and exchanges, research, among others, Most African farmers are not accessing the internet due to lack of the skills required to do so, including computer, internet enabled phones and internet use training. African rural smallholder farmers are therefore a community that has been excluded for quite a long time in the Digital/Internet world. This has left them lagging far behind as far as the quality of life and development is concerned.

At Mucho Mangoes Ltd, We believe that if rural African farmers can use the internet, they will be in a position to search for agricultural production information, learn new production techniques and technologies, and solve problems in their production. For instance, one can search for ways to manage or control pests or diseases, and there is a lot of information online, including on Youtube where they can follow simple instructions by following others who have successfully done it and are sharing their knowledge with others online. We believe that this may help them to improve the quality of their production, and also interact with online market platforms where they can sell some of their products by simply taking a picture and posting online.

And we know that it is very hard to bring this community on board, even though they are among the 1 Billion people that we are targeting as global citizens. We think it is not easy to bring them on board because this is a community of people whose occupation, farming, gives them little opportunities for them to create time for learning a new skill, they have challenges accessing training sites, and affording the cost of training. They also live in rural areas where, in some places, they don’t have electricity. However, even though challenging, it is doable!

With support from AFRINIC’s Fund for Internet Research and Education in Africa, we have been able to set up a mobile ICT Center that provides Computer, internet enabled phones and Internet use skills training to rural farmers in rural Kenya. The program is flexible to allow farmers to attend for two hours per day, and attend to their farms. It is provided at their location, with different time sessions, and taught using a Mixture of English and the Swahili language to enable farmers of all backgrounds to understand. The qualification for participation is just the ability to read and write.

We use a Power generator where there is no electricity, or where there is a disconnection, but we intend to develop a mobile solar power source in the near future. As an introduction of the program, we are providing the training for free to farmers, young and old, men and women, but we intend to charge USD 2 per week (A total of 16 dollars) in future, in order to sustain the project.

Our ICT training has attracted more participants than we could handle, and we have had to keep very many applicants waiting for the next intake. We currently have three sessions per day, with a total of 123 participants, including an 84 years old Mzee Solomon Ngari, and 71 years old Peter Maloti, small scale farmers who are very eager to learn, and are very active learners.   In total, we have already trained 246 farmers, and they are the happiest lot in the world!

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Above, myself and 84 years old Mzee Solomon Ngari, among other participants in the mobile ICT Center in Taveta, Kenya

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Attending to 71 years old Peter Maloti, a small scale farmer attending the ICT training.

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 The training is also empowering women smallholder farmers, and encouraging interreligious harmony, respect and understanding, as participants, on daily basis, share a verse of the day either from the Holy Bible or the Quran, and they pray together before the start of the days program, despite coming from diverse backgrounds. It has really improved on Community relationships.


We made it our business, from the start of the program, to focus more on women empowerment. The interest and willingness by women and youth to learn a new skill has been overwhelming!

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As seen in this picture, the demand for our training has exceeded our capacity, and we are just looking for ways to expand and have more centers that will cater for more people.

We also take pride in using this program to attract young people, who have always viewed agriculture as unattractive and ‘‘not cool”, into agriculture, because apart from ICT, participants go through mango production, pests and diseases control, horticultural crops pre and post-harvest handling skills, among others, for free, and they get to interact with old farmers.


At Mucho Mangoes Ltd, we believe in an Africa where rural smallholder farmers lead successful lives, out of poverty! And through the 21st Century Digital Farmer program, we are making it happen!

We are grateful and want to thank AFRINIC, most sincerely, for holding our hand, as we empower farmers with the right skills and giving them the resources they need to run profitable farms, and ensuring that their incomes are increased by providing them with a ready and reliable market for their produce.

So, connecting the next 1 Billion people to the internet is not easy, but it is doable!

Together, we can help rural smallholder farmers to lead better livelihoods, and supply the world with much healthier foods!

Thank you, AFRINIC! Ahsanteni sana!

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About the Author

Didas Mzirai is the founder and CEO of Mucho Mangoes, an organization that empowers rural smallholder farmers in Kenya to produce better quality products, then provide a ready and reliable market for their produce. Prior to this, Didas served as President of the National Youth Bunge Association, under the Yes Youth Can program, which is the largest Youth Network in Kenya, and He is a 2014 Mandela Washington Fellow in in former US President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative, YALI.  He also Champions Peace as a Generation Change Fellow, which is a program of the United States Institute of Peace where he is a trainer of trainers in Leadership and Conflict Management.  



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