Days are busy at the Regional Training Center for Nuru Kenya Agriculture Program staff. With the planting season looming, the staff are preparing to issue agricultural input loans and then subsequently distribute fertilizer and seed to farmers all over Kuria West. In 2013, the program will be working in seven new sublocations. Additionally, the farmer attendance lists at our recruitment event, Base Education, suggest that in 2013 Nuru Agriculture will be experiencing a lot of growth in our current areas of operation.

In previous blogs, you’ve heard a lot about the program’s strengths, challenges, recruitment strategy and harvest time success. This month I want to focus on the program’s impact on farmers and households and HOW the impact is achieved. Currently, the program focuses its attention and efforts on farming maize. Maize is a staple crop in Kuria West. It is central to household food security. The agriculture program helps farmers increase their harvest using two primary program components: small, low interest loans maize farming inputs and a training series that teaches farmers how to properly use the inputs.

Many people living in poverty around the world are small-scale subsistence farmers who do not have enough capital available to consistently buy inputs for proper farming. The same people often live in remote, rural areas where services, such as access to credit are lacking. The dearth of capital and credit leaves them no choice but to farm with inadequate inputs, which results in poor yields. Nuru addresses this problem in Kuria West by loaning farmers the required fertilizers and seed. By taking an agricultural loan with Nuru, a farmer is guaranteed to receive high-quality inputs in time for the planting season. The farmers then have 9 months to pay back the loan. With a Nuru agricultural loan comes other benefits such as low interest rates and loan forgiveness for the household in the event of a farmer’s death.

While delivering inputs to farmers is a great first step, those inputs will do little to improve yields if farmers do not know how to use them. Our training series starts with ground preparation and educates farmers on best practices throughout the growing season. Our trainings cover the use of inputs, such as how and when to use each fertilizer and how to properly plant and space the certified seeds. But, we don’t stop there, Nuru Kenya provides farmers with the whole package including information about proper weeding techniques and timing and how farmers can minimize post-harvest losses.

Following the trainings requires considerable work and dedication, but Nuru farmers that take a loan and follow the trainings see real, measurable improvement in their fields. On average, in 2012, we increased farmers’ maize yields by 123%! This yield increase impacts households in different ways depending on their starting point. For most households it helps to eliminate the hunger season that the majority used to experience on an annual basis. Our farmers that are able to farm two or three acres often have a big enough harvest to invest in other areas such as school fees for their children, household improvements or starting a small business to supplement income and reduce household vulnerability to income shocks.

The Nuru Kenya Agriculture Program staff is proud of how they’ve assisted the farmers in their community in 2012. Yet, they’re continually looking for ways to increase their impact and expand their reach. As they gear up for the 2013 long rains season, they are determined to continue to be drivers of positive change in farms and households throughout Kuria West.