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 Friday, September 21, 2012

Zack Matere is not an average farmer. Having studied for a diploma in business administration at Eldoret Polytechnic in Kenya, he ventured into white collar jobs, which he quickly abandoned to concentrate on what many people on his age regarded as a poor man’s job: farming.

He started farming vegetables, and first encountered ICTs when a strange disease attacked his potatoes. Not even the agricultural officer could diagnose the cause. Zack’s farm is in Segereya village, near Eldoret, a long way from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. He had learned a little about computers and the Internet at college, so Zack cycled 10 km from his home to the nearest internet café. He opened the Google search engine and typed ‘potato diseases.’

He found that ants had attacked his potatoes, and also found a cheap and environmentally friendly cure: spraying wood ash. Amazed by the results, Zack returned to the Internet café and, after a few clicks, he was able to find a buyer for his potatoes.

Zack invested in a 3G-enabled phone that he could use to look for information online from the comfort of his home. Zack is lucky, he is internet literate, but thousands of farmers in his area do not even know how to use cell phones. Zack has therefore become the bridge between these farmers and the internet. Zack pays 50 Kenyan shillings (0.50 euro) everyday to access the internet from his phone, an amount that is beyond the reach of his fellow farmers.

Zack has tried to bring these farmers the information that they so desperately need. The initial challenge was to identify the most effective and inexpensive platform to reach and interact with a community of 10,000 people within a radius of 50 km. He came up with the idea for the network of notice boards, an initiative he calls Leo Pamoja, in Swahili for ‘together today’.

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(Source: ICT Update)