As the Nuru Kenya Agriculture (NK Ag) program gears up for growing new crops in a new season, I took some time to hear from one of the NK Ag program’s founders, Andrew Sinda. Andrew, who is currently a field director with NK Ag, was one of the people who helped start Nuru in Kuria West in 2008. The NK Ag program has grown rapidly since that first year and will be undergoing some big changes in 2014. Below, Andrew reflects on the beginning of Nuru Kenya and looks forward to the upcoming year.

Andrew, tell me about yourself and your background:

I was born in Nyametaburo Sublocation in Kuria West District, Kenya in 1974. I attended primary school at Nyametaburo Primary and secondary school at Isibania Secondary. After finishing school, I got married. My wife and I currently have two children, one boy and one girl.

In 1997, I joined the Electoral Commission of Kenya where I worked as a registration officer. Later I worked for a tobacco company as a leaf monitor. In 2008, I attended the first general farmer meeting held by Jake and Philip and became interested in Nuru. The following day I went back to talk to Jake and Philip. After talking we decided that I should show Jake around so he could meet farmers and see how they were living.

Can you share some of your favorite memories from the first year of Nuru?

During the first interviews we conducted with farmers we learned that many of them were experiencing three months of hunger each year. These three months occurred in between harvest seasons when the food from the previous harvest had run out. Farmers were forced to buy food during this time but many of them had no source of income and could not purchase food. Before Nuru many farmers were only harvesting three 90-KG bags of maize. After the first Nuru harvest, yields increased to around sixteen 90-KG bags per acre. This meant the farmers had enough food to feed their families throughout the year and could even sell some maize as income. I’ll never forget our first farmers and the changes they experienced after the first Nuru harvest.

Why did you decide to join Nuru back in 2008?

I immediately became interested when I heard that the mission was to empower the community to grow enough food and end extreme poverty. I was working for the tobacco company when Jake and Philip came to start Nuru. I was so excited to hear about an organization that wanted to help farmers that I quit my job with the tobacco company to work as an unpaid volunteer for Nuru in the beginning. Many farmers also stopped growing tobacco after the first Nuru maize harvest.

What do you enjoy most about your job as a Field Director with Nuru Agriculture?

My favorite part of my current job is general farmer meetings. It is at these meetings that I get to hear from farmers about the challenges they are facing. Then, I’m able to help them find solutions for their problems or bring their concerns back to the rest of the NK Ag team so we can find a way to address them. If I don’t listen to farmers, I won’t understand them or know how I can help them. One of my favorite aspects of working for NK Ag is that it is a farmer-focused program that listens to farmers and finds ways to serve them.

What are you excited about in 2014?

I’m excited about the crop diversification we’re introducing to farmers. 2013 was a difficult season and I think the new crops, sorghum and millet, will help us overcome some challenges and contribute to food security for Nuru farmers. I’m also excited about the grevillea tree-planting program we’ll be starting. Grevillea trees have so many environmental and economic benefits!

What are some challenges you think Nuru Ag will face in 2014?

I think our challenges will also revolve around our new crops. Convincing farmers to adopt new practices for different crops is always a challenge. Adding trainings and providing extension services for additional crops will also increase our workload in the field, which will be a challenge.

What changes have you seen in Kuria West since the Nuru Agriculture program began?

Nuru farmers no longer face the problem of hunger, which is probably the most important change. Additionally, farmers see that if they follow trainings and work hard, their dedication will pay off in the form of high yields. This has caused farmers to change their attitudes, they no longer feel helpless but are now empowered to work hard and improve their own lives.