Kenya has a bi-modal rain pattern, meaning it has two rainy seasons. The “short rains” season occurs from October to December, while the “long rains” begin in late February and last up to June. As the long rains season approaches, the Nuru Kenya Agriculture program has started one of the most logistically intense operations of the year: input issue. This is the time the program staff delivers fertilizers and certified seed to farmers all over Kuria West. The event began in December and will continue until February. In 2013, there are 38 different sites scattered all across Kuria West to which inputs will be delivered.

A day of input issue begins early in the morning as staff arrives to coordinate the loading of fertilizer and seed onto trucks. Depending on the number of trucks going out that day, it can take several hours to complete the counting and loading. Once the loading is complete, the staff heads out to the sites. This year, Kuria West is experiencing heavier than normal rainfall in January, resulting in muddy roads and occasionally washed-out bridges. This can make reaching the pre-determined sites a challenge. To avoid a problem, the Nuru Kenya Agriculture Program staff scouts questionable sites ahead of time so if taking an alternate route or moving a site is necessary, it can be done well in advance.

While the trucks are en-route to the sites, other staff members are busy setting up the issuing site and organizing the farmers who’ve arrived early. Each issuing site consists of several stations that must be set up for the most efficient distribution possible as some sites serve hundreds of farmers in one day.

Once the truck arrives and the stations are set up, the distribution begins. Farmers are told ahead of time that they should come with the others in their group to help speed up the process. A farmer group first proceeds to the pre-payment station where they make a down payment on their loan. This station is new in 2013 and is part of the Agriculture program’s strategy to encourage early repayment. Groups then move on to contracts and receipting where their contract is checked for a signature, dated and they are given a receipt for collecting their inputs.

The final stop for farmers is to pick up their fertilizer and seeds. Each acre of maize requires one bag of diammonium phosphate (DAP) fertilizer that is used during planting to promote germination and early plant growth and one bag of calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) fertilizer that is used later in the season. Each bag of fertilizer weighs 50 kilograms (110 pounds), so moving the bags around is a strenuous exercise. An acre of maize also requires 10 kilograms of certified hybrid seed. Once they’ve received their inputs, the group is finished and farmers can help each other in transporting their fertilizer and seeds to their individual farms.

Issuing inputs to 300 or more farmers can take the better part of the day. In the late afternoon, once the issuing is finished, any remaining inputs must be counted, loaded back on the truck and driven back to the warehouse to be unloaded. The staff then counts receipts, packs up and prepares to do it all again the next day.

Input issue is a lot of work, but it is also a great team-building activity for the Nuru Kenya Agriculture Program. Field Managers, who usually work in separate geographic locations, travel around to help one another at the issue sites. This allows them to spend time together as well as meet Field Officers and farmers from other areas. By working all together to accomplish such a monumental and vital task, the agriculture staff is able to build a camaraderie that will help them tackle challenges throughout the new year.