As the rainy season draws to a close the Nuru Kenya Agriculture (NK Ag) team is preparing for a busy and fruitful harvest season. The 2014 long rains season was a fresh start for the NK Ag team after the challenges of 2013. It was also a season of firsts as Nuru introduced farmers to multiple new crops. Like many seasons, 2014 has been filled with both challenges and successes.
One of the biggest combined challenges and successes of 2014 was the introduction of a diversified loan package. This year, Nuru farmers grew maize, finger millet and brown sorghum as compared to previous years when the loan package contained only maize farming inputs.
At the beginning of the season, the NK Ag team had some difficulty in recruiting farmers and encouraging them to plant the new crops. As agriculture is many farmers’ main source of livelihood it is understandable that they would be hesitant to plant something new or take on a new risk. Through hard work, patience and perseverance the NK Ag team managed to get the majority of Nuru farmers to diversify their fields in 2014.
Luckily, this early challenge has translated into great success in the later part of the season. The combination of quality inputs, training on new agronomic practices and hard work of Nuru farmers has resulted in both crops performing very well in their first season. While NK AG won’t have yield data for some months to come, field surveys indicate that the crops are looking great as the harvest begins. This is a significant win for Nuru farmers and the NK Ag team. Not only will farmers have a bountiful harvest in 2014, but the performance of the crops has also helped encourage other farmers to diversify their farms and join Nuru in future seasons. From an organizational perspective, the NK Ag team gained significant agricultural expertise through this diversification process and is now even better situated to support farmers in the community.
Though the spotlight has been on sorghum and finger millet for much of the season, maize is still the linchpin to food security for many farmers in Kuria West. The NK Ag team and Nuru farmer base are now experts on maize planting methods and agronomy and it shows in the fields. This expertise combined with adequate rainfall in 2014 has resulted in promising maize fields all across Kuria.
The prevalence of a common invasive weed that affects maize yields, called Striga or Witchweed, was also lower than normal in 2014. This is encouraging as it indicates that years of Nuru campaigns aimed at getting farmers to uproot the weed might finally be paying off. Though there were not many changes to Nuru’s maize programming this year NK Ag but did offer new seed variety options to farmers in 2014. The new varieties have done well and are expected to be in high demand in 2015.
There are still challenges that lie ahead for the NK Ag program in the latter half of 2014. They include collecting the rest of the loan repayment, designing a loan package for 2015, scaling to new sublocations and developing market facilitation strategies for Nuru farmers. However, as the NK Ag team takes a pause and a deep breath before the harvest season, the early successes of 2014 provide hope and determination for facing the trials that lie ahead.