Tech-MODE in Kenya

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Executive summary

Open and distance learning (ODL) in Kenya, like in many other developing countries, is characterized by, and offered through, dual mode institutions. Most of these programmes are in humanities and social sciences. Currently, one private university is offering agricultural training at a distance using print medium. A few private organizations or NGOs carry out short duration informal agricultural capacity building programmes to farmer groups and extension workers using technology-mediated open and distance education (Tech-MODE).

The Government of Kenya placed emphasis on education and training in agriculture, because of the important role it plays in the country’s economy. Although great potential exists for the use of Tech-MODE in agricultural sciences at primary, secondary, tertiary and informal levels in Kenya, its application still largely remains untapped. However, with the recent completion of the National ICT Policy (2006), the Ministry of Education, in consultation with stakeholders, developed a comprehensive National ICT Strategy for education and training, with a view to guiding the implementation of information and communication technology (ICT) initiatives in the education sector.

This country report highlights the existing potential in Kenya that the project on Tech-MODE for agricultural education proposed by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) could build on. It is suggested that consideration should be given to strengthening relations with the existing national, regional and international institutions and networks or programmes. Priority areas for training should be identified by all participating stakeholders for support in content development and institutional capacity building.

This initiative offers opportunities for multi-institutional partnerships to prepare training content that would not only provide locally relevant and practical knowledge, but also would be internationally recognized. Tech-MODE for agricultural education would offer viable alternatives by lowering education costs, increasing professional retention and not taking trainees out of their professional roles and homes for extended periods. In addition, beneficiaries would contribute to increased and sustainable agricultural production, development in the country, poverty reduction and improved food security.


Executive summary 
Principal acronyms  

1  Agriculture in Kenya  
2  Agricultural education and training  
3  National ICT policy and education sector strategy  
4  Status of ICT in education and training  
5  ODL and Tech-MODE in education and training  
6  Opportunities and challenges of ODL and Tech-MODE  
7  Recommendations  
8  References  

Related information 

Principal acronyms

CGIAR         Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research 
COL           Commonwealth of Learning 
ICT(s)        Information and communication technology(ies) 
KACE          Kenya Agricultural Commodity Exchange 
LAN           Local area network 
ODL           Open and distance learning 
RAIN-ASARECA  Regional Agricultural Information Network of the Association 
              for Strengthening  Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa 
RUFORUM       RegionalUniversities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture 
SEAC-DE       Strengthening Agricultural and Environmental Capacities 
              through Distance Education
Tech-MODE     Technology-mediated open and distance education 

1 Agriculture in Kenya

Agriculture is an important sector for Kenya directly contributing about 26% of the GDP and supporting the livelihoods of about 80% of the population. Only 16% of the land mass is endowed with the potential for rain-fed agriculture. The rest of the country is arid and semi-arid lands, mainly used for range-based activities and pastoralism. The development of the agricultural sector in Kenya mainly relies on rain-fed agriculture. The rapidly increasing population, currently estimated at 33 million, continued to exert pressure on the agricultural resource base. This coupled with frequent droughts adversely affects the country’s food security position. Roughly, half the country’s population live below the poverty line. Therefore, there is a need for the country to explore ways for ensuring increased agricultural production and productivity to meet the growing food, poverty and employment challenges.

Most people involved in agriculture in Kenya are subsistence farmers handling little or no marketable surplus. According to the Kenya Poverty Reduction Strategy document, the incidence of poverty among food crop producers is the highest among the subsistence farmers and pastoralists. Recurrent droughts in most parts of the country, land degradation, pests and diseases, inadequate or lack of farm inputs, and inadequate access to information play a major role in reduced agricultural productivity. The government policies and strategy papers (Economic Recovery Strategy and Strategy to Revitalize Agriculture) identify food security and poverty alleviation as the main government development objectives. These policy frameworks single out agriculture-led development as fundamental to cutting hunger, reducing poverty, generating economic growth and promoting sustainable use of natural resources in the country.

2 Agricultural education and training

Kenya’s agriculture is confronted with many challenges, but human-resource capacity building is undoubtedly one of the most important prerequisites for science and technology advancement of the Kenyan agricultural production systems. One strategy to address this need would be to enhance development and promotion of partnerships with developed countries carrying out and developing research and development capacities in agriculture (FARA, 2004). Although there has been significant progress in building human capacity, there is still a major capacity for adequately addressing the country’s technological needs.

Since independence in 1963, the Government of Kenya placed considerable emphasis on education and training in agriculture, given the important role it plays in the country’s economy. Therefore, agriculture as a subject is offered at all levels of the formal education system. The Kenyan educational system consists of three major levels: primary, secondary and tertiary. The primary level has eight years of compulsory universal education, while the secondary level lasts for four years. There are 3 categories of tertiary education: certificate, diploma and degree. Certificates and diplomas are mainly awarded after 2-3 years of technical/commercial or vocational education at a middle-level college or polytechnic, while a degree is awarded after a minimum of 4 years of training at a university. Agriculture is offered as an optional subject at the secondary level.

There are several public and private training institutes in Kenya that offer education and training in agriculture certificate and diploma levels. Those who complete certificates and diplomas are designated as technical assistants and as technical officers, respectively, when they secure employment either in government or non-governmental organizations.

Currently, there are seven public and six private universities in Kenya. Five of the public and two of the private universities offer degree programmes in agricultural sciences. The universities preparing agricultural professionals and mid-career agriculturists in various disciplines are given in Table 1.

Table 1. Universities offering agricultural programmes

University Year established Status BSc degree MSc degree
University of Nairobi

1964 Public Agriculture, Agric. Education & Extension, Agribusiness, Food Science. & Technology, Food Nutrition & Dietetics Range Management, Management of Agroeco­systems & Environment Agronomy, Horticulture, Plant Breeding, Plant Pathology & Plant Protection

Soil Science, Animal Science, Agric. Economy, Food Technology, Applied Human Nutrition, Agric. Res. Mgt.

Egerton University 1986 Public Agriculture, Agric. Education & Extension, Agribusiness, Horticulture, Food Science. & Technology, Home Economy,

Animal Science

Agronomy, Horticulture, Plant Breeding,

Soil Science, Animal Science

Agricultural Economics, Agricultural Engineering

Jomo Kenyatta Uni. of Agric. & Technology 1989 Public Agriculture, Horticulture, Food Science. & Technology, Home Economics Agronomy, Horticulture, Plant Breeding, Plant Protection

Soil Science, Agribusiness

Moi University 1985 Public Agriculture, Horticulture, Seed Science & Technology, Home Economy Agronomy, Seed Science,

Soil Science

Maseno University 2000 Public Agriculture, Horticulture Agronomy, Horticulture
Paraton University of East Africa 1984 Private Agriculture, Agricultural Education & Extension Agricultural Education & Extension
Kenya Methodist University 2000 Private Agriculture, Agricultural Education & Extension Agricultural &Rural Development

The curricula offered by most universities and training institutes cover a wide range of disciplines in the broad areas of crops, livestock production and processing. Depending on the mandates of institutions, however, specialized courses and programmes are also on offer. Examples of such specialized courses are horticulture, seed science and dairy production, which target specific commodities in the agricultural sector.

Since 2004, the College of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences, University of Nairobi, started offering demand-driven certificate and diploma courses in horticulture, crop protection, artificial insemination and fertility management, as well as fish inspection. These courses are in high demand and mainly attract those already in employment.

To date, all the universities listed in Table 1, except Kenya Methodist University (KEMU), conduct their agricultural training programmes using the regular face-to-face teaching. KEMU uses dual mode of instruction, blending print-based ODL with face-to-face mode.

Most agricultural graduates are deployed as extension staff in the government Ministries of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries or Cooperative Development. Training of farmers by extension workers is mainly carried out at Farmers Training Centres spread all over the country. These agricultural extension programmes aim at empowering farmers with practical skills and making them aware of improved technologies, usually obtained from the centres of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and/or the universities. The length of training can vary from short-term training activities, such as one-day field demonstrations, season-long training in Farmer Field Schools, to a long term training that may last several weeks at Farmers Training Centres. Extension and farmer training programmes rely on face-to-face teaching and learning through traditional training, demonstration plots and field days.

3 National ICT policy and education sector strategy

In Kenya, the Government established policies designed to promote and facilitate the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in education both for teaching and learning. The Ministry of Education adopted ICT broadly in the following three ways:

  1. ICT as an administrative tool which is also known as eGovernment. In pursuing eGovernance in education, the primary focus is on mainstreaming ICT in all educational operations and service delivery for regional and global competitiveness.
  2. ICT for teaching and learning also known as eLearning. eLearning aims at mainstreaming ICT in the teaching and learning process to ensure the integration of ICT in teaching and learning.
  3. ICT for education management also known as Education Management Information System (EMIS). The EMIS focuses on providing education managers and administrators with accurate and timely data for better and informed decision-making

In 2005, a National Education Policy in which ICT in education was given prominence was published. To implement this policy, the Ministry in collaboration with its partners developed a five-year programme for the entire sector, which defined investment programmes and provisional budgets to support various education and training programmes.

With the recent finalization of the National ICT Policy for the country, the Ministry in consultation with all stakeholders developed a comprehensive National ICT Strategy for Education and Training, which is currently guiding the speedy implementation of ICT initiatives in the education sector. The approach and vision outlined in this strategy will not be realized if vast numbers of schools continue to be marginalized in terms of access to and use of ICT. The Ministry, therefore, set up a Ministerial ICT Committee to coordinate and monitor the implementation of the various innovative solutions for education and training.

4 Status of ICT in education and training

Kenya has not liberalized its telecommunication sector, despite having developed a National ICT Policy that places emphasis on the key role it would play in the country’s development. Some modest progress has taken place in the last five years with private sector investments in ICT infrastructure deployment. But access to ICTs still remains highly inadequate and unevenly distributed with high concentration in urban and peri-urban areas. The mobile telephony revolution made greater strides than the internet and computing revolution. Table 2 shows the levels of ICT infrastructure and utilization in Kenya.

Table 2. ICT infrastructure indicators in Kenya

Proportion / Numbers
Internet penetration
Cyber cafes
Computer penetration
Mobile phone penetration
Television penetration
Radio penetration
Fixed line telephone operators
Fixed line telephone subscribers
1 per 100 population
Mobile phone operators
Mobile phone subscribers
5 per 100 population
Total cellular mobile phone subscribers
5.5 million

Source: Ministry of Education (2006a)

Latest estimates indicate that Kenya has an Internet penetration of 4.4%, more than 1000 cyber cafes, a computer penetration of 2%, television penetration of 60%, radio penetration of 90%, and mobile phone penetration of 16% (Ministry of Education, 2006a). By world standards, these statistics indicate that Kenya is lagging behind many countries in these technological indicators, but it is a basis that can be built upon in future.

In the education sector, use and application of ICT is most advanced in the tertiary level, mainly in the universities. However, not all tertiary institutions in the country are equally endowed and there are instances where the computer facilities are run at a rudimentary level, without internet connectivity. In such cases, users purely rely on private sector cyber cafes, sometimes several kilometres from the institutions.

To start the process of increasing ICT access in Kenyan schools, the Ministry recently funded the acquisition of ICT equipment for 142 secondary schools. The Ministry intends to continue releasing funds to support schools in groups until approximately all the 4,000 secondary schools are e-enabled. The Ministry, in collaboration with the public and private sectors, formed the Kenya ICT Trust Fund in February 2004, with a mandate to mobilize corporate contributions for furthering ICT for education initiatives (Ministry of Education, 2006b). The Fund developed a strategic plan for 2006-2011 that sets out the goals and outcomes it aims to achieve. Through its partners, the Trust has been able to equip more than 800 secondary schools with ICT equipment, training and software.

5 ODL and Tech-MODE in education and training

The development of ODL in Kenya has been in response to a number of educational needs. The demand for higher education in Kenya increased in recent years as a result of population growth and increase in the number of secondary school graduates. Higher costs coupled with limited and deteriorating facilities associated with the country’s traditional residency-based higher education system have put higher education out of reach for many people especially women and also for many others who are already employed. ODL has therefore become necessary to meet the education and training needs of a large number of students in Kenya (Odumbe, 2006).

Some of the common elements most of the public universities and other tertiary institutions providing ODL programmes share include the following:

Little progress has been made with regard to ODL and Tech-MODE in Kenya. An exceptional case, however, is the Rockefeller Foundation funded initiative to provide AGORA (Access Global Online Research in Agriculture) e-journals to the National Agricultural Research System (NARS), which includes faculties of agriculture ( This has been valuable to lecturers, research scientists and post-graduate students in accessing agricultural research publications through the AGORA portal, free of charge.

The Kenya Agricultural Commodity Exchange (KACE), a private sector firm launched in 1997 to facilitate linkage between sellers and buyers of agricultural commodities, currently provides relevant and timely marketing information and intelligence ( KACE uses an internet-based Regional Commodity Trade and Information System (RECOTIS) for dissemination of market information. RECOTIS is an electronic database of clients interested in buying, selling, importing, exporting or distributing agricultural commodities. To this end, KACE provided a transparent and competitive market price discovery mechanism and harnessed ICT for rural value addition and empowerment.

At several locations within the country, some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working with rural farmers are helping farmers boost production and marketing of their products by giving them access to vital information through the use of ICTs. An example is the Arid Lands Information Network-East Africa (ALIN-EA) that supplied farmers with computers to access information such as crop production advice and market pricing ( Information delivery through Tech-MODE is currently routed through projects that are mostly short-term and small scale. There is need to scale-up such information delivery through enhanced and sustainable Tech-MODE to be able to reach a large number of farmers and agribusiness people at all times.

6 Opportunities and challenges of ODL and Tech-MODE


Potential of the agricultural and related sciences institutions for Tech-MODE: Table 3 provides a summary of some formal agricultural and related sciences institutions and available facilities and resources in Kenya.

Table 3. Resources and capabilities for some selected agricultural institutions

Institution Faculty/Unit Capabilities/


Potential to implement TechMODE
University of Nairobi Faculty of Agriculture

School of Distance Education

ICT Centre

Internet access


Well established ODL

programmes in education

Libraries (ejournals)

Extra-Mural resource centres around the country

Teaching staff

Kenyatta University School of Environmental Sciences

School of Education and External Studies

African Virtual University-Kenya

Internet access


Continuing education


Teaching staff

Egerton University Faculty of Agriculture

Faculty of Education

Internet access


Resource Centre


Teaching staff

Ministry of Agriculture Training and Extension


Information Centre

Policy and strategy documents

Training and field manuals

Kenya Agricultural Research Institute

Documentation Centre

Research &Training Section

Internet access

Research outputs


CGIAR Centres based in Nairobi-Kenya


Capacity building


Research outputs

Research scientists


Currently, at all levels of training and education, the main mode of delivery in the ODL programmes is predominantly print material. With the assistance of COL and other development partners, the existing facilities and infrastructure could be enhanced and new programme using Tech-MODE developed.

Training in computer literacy: The increasing human capacity strengthening in ICT through training workshops, seminars and courses is contributing significantly to the number of people that can learn through Tech-MODE. It is envisaged that collaboration with local and international institutions in ICT human capacity building will go a long way to achieving the government’s objectives of making ICT a tool for development. The need to train trainers in the use of ICT, to develop ICT user skills among education administrators and a capacity to provide local support for ICT users is recognised in the policies and plans.

Access to world wide web and mobiles: The private sector played a key role in the establishment of cyber cafés in urban areas that provide public access for those who can afford to pay. Access to information is also growing rapidly in both urban and rural areas through growth and expansion of mobile telephony.

Favourable policy framework: The development of ICT policy and strategy documents is an indication of the political goodwill of the government for ICT in Kenya. The government made the inclusion of ICT in all the sectors a national priority. In the Kenya Education Sector Support Programme (KESSP), it is clearly stated and budget lines indicated to support e-learning. This is due to recognition that e-learning will be necessary if government is to satisfy the ever-growing demand for education without always building new classrooms. To promote computer literacy, the government emphasized training of government employees in basic computer skills through the e-governance programme. The government equipped the Kenya Institute of Education with the initial capacity to digitise the national curriculum, starting with that of secondary schools.

The government is encouraging the telecommunication sector to address infrastructural imbalance through the Universal Service Fund (USF) under the national regulator, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK). The government has also been in the forefront seeking and creating partnerships to collaborate in policy development and implementation, to encourage investment in ICT development, to increase network access and to share the cost of network accessing.

Partnerships and collaboration: The existing partnerships and collaborations within the country and region would be a good entry point for COL to enhance Tech-MODE adoption in agricultural training and education. Examples of such initiatives are RUFORUM, RAIN-ASARECA, AVU-Kenyatta University and SEAC-DE. This would develop and enhance synergies to utilize the strengths of the various collaborating institutions, especially in joint course content development or sharing of resources and to avoid counter productive competition.


Alongside the opportunities that exist, the challenges to be looked into include the following:

7 Recommendations

Some of the general recommendations are as follows:

The following recommendations pertain to the mechanism for the introduction of Tech-MODE:

8 References

Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA). 2004. Partnerships in Action. Annual Report 2004.

Kenya National ICT Strategy for Education and Training. 2006. Ministry of Education.

Kenya ICT Trust Fund. 2006. Republic of Kenya.

Ministry of Agriculture, Kenya. 2003. Strategy for Revitalizing Agriculture Strategic Plan, 2004-2014. Nairobi, Kenya.

Ministry of Agriculture, Kenya. 2006. Ministry of Agriculture Strategic Plan, 2006-2010. Nairobi, Kenya.

Ministry of Education, Kenya. 2006a. Speech by D. Siele, Director of Higher Education at the Online Educa eLearning Conference, Berlin, Germany, November 30, 2006.

Ministry of Education, Kenya. 2006b. Key Note Speech by Hon. Beth Mugo, Kenya’s Assistant Minister for Education, on the occasion of the 1st Pan-Africa Conference on eLearning held in Addis Ababa, May 24 – May 27, 2006.

Ng’ethe, Njuguna, N’dri Asssié-Lumumba, George Subotzky and Esi Sutherland-Addy. 2003. “Higher Education Innovations in Sub-Saharan Africa: With Specific Reference to Universities”. ADEA Working Group on Higher Education for the Partnership on Education.

Odumbe, J.O. 2006. Open and Distance Learning in Kenya and policy process after National Forum. In: Report of the Uganda National Forum on Open and Distance Learning, December 6-8, 2006, Kampala.

Related information

Web Resources

The Main Page on Tech-MODE in SSA is Tech-MODE_in_SSA

For brief information on the country studies see the poster presentation: Tech-MODE Poster

For information on agricultural open educational resources (AOER) see the poster presentation: AOER Poster

For a Synthesis Report on all eight country studies see Tech-MODE Synthesis

For the Country Study on:

Distance Learning for Agricultural Development in Southern Africa
Rainer Zachmann, Mungule Chikoye, Richard Siaciwena, Krishna Alluri
In 2001, the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Vancouver, Canada, and the In-Service Training Trust (ISTT), Lusaka, Zambia, initiated a program for agricultural extension workers in Southern (and Eastern) Africa to develop and deliver distance-learning materials. Participants from Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia produced materials, pre-tested them with prospective learners, improved the materials in a workshop in 2002, and implemented pilot programs in their countries in 2003 and 2004.

ICT/ICM Human Resource Capacities in Agricultural Research for Development in Eastern and Central Africa
Rainer Zachmann, Vitalis O. Musewe, Sylvester D. Baguma, Dorothy Mukhebi
Human capacities are lagging behind the quickly evolving information and communication technologies and management (ICT/ICM). Therefore, the Regional Agricultural Information Network (RAIN), one of the networks of the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), commissioned an assessment of ICT/ICM human resource capacities and related training needs in the context of agricultural research for development. The assessment included visits and interviews, questionnaire surveys, and desk studies at national agricultural research systems in the ASARECA subregion. We found a general lack of ICT/ICM policies which has serious consequences, and leads to a wide variety of training needs. Fortunately, most training needs can be satisfied with resources available locally, in-house, in the country, or in the ASARECA subregion.

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