Ian Smith ‘22

Ian Smith

Major: International Studies: Africa Track
Bio: Ian is a 22 year old from Chicago. In the summer of 2021, they lived on an island in Kenya and worked on a small, organic farm while performing anthropological research. Ian was interning with the UN in Rome at the time of this presentation, and hopes to use that experience as a starting point for a career combatting neocolonialism.


Title of Research: Digital Agriculture: An Ethnographic Study of Crowdfunded Community Development in Rural Kenya.
Abstract: My research is based on ethnographic fieldwork that I performed for one and a half months in the summer of 2021 on Mfangano Island, Kenya in order to learn about internet use, voluntourism, and the climate crisis, all in relation to small-scale agriculture. People living on and around Mfangano Island are using self-managed volunteering platforms, crowdfunding sites, and social media in order to procure capital that is then used for community and agricultural development. While there are significant challenges which limit the efficacy and scalability of this approach, this is nonetheless a unique and innovative example of how Kenyan farmers are leveraging new ICTs to improve their agricultural livelihoods and communities.