Meet Nuru Kenya Agriculture District Manager: Tom Nyongesa Juma
As Nuru supporters know, the Nuru Kenya Agriculture Program (NK Ag) is growing quickly. In 2013, NK Ag is serving about 5,500 farmers throughout Kuria West, a nearly 100% increase from our 2012 farmers. As NK Ag grows its impact, it has also expanded its staff to include new leadership. The NK Ag District Manager, Tom Nyongesa Juma, is celebrating the completion of his first year with the program. Tom has had quite the first year, full of many accomplishments and challenges. Along every step of the way Tom has provided solid leadership and guidance. This month, I sat down with Tom to learn more about his first year with NK Ag and his vision for the program in years to come.
Tom, tell us about yourself and your background:
My name is Tom Nyongesa Juma. I am 30 years old and my family originally comes from Bungoma, Kenya. However, I schooled in Kisumu while growing up so that is where I spent most of my childhood. I currently hold a BS in forestry and a master’s degree in soil science from Moi University. I’m married, my wife is a teacher and we have two young sons ages 7 years and 9 months.
Why did you decide to work for Nuru?
I’ve always had a strong interest in agriculture, which is what first attracted me to the job advertisement. I hold a certificate in agriculture and I even farm maize myself! Furthermore, I have a passion for working with marginalized populations, and as I learned more about Nuru my interest in the position grew.
Once I started, I quickly felt at home with Nuru and the wider community. The staff at Nuru really makes you feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself. After seeing the staff’s determination to work together to achieve a common goal, I became very excited about our program’s potential to eradicate extreme poverty.
What are the key components of the NK Ag Program?
NK Ag uses 5 strategies to increase crop yields and end hunger. They include:
- Quality farm inputs on credit – The loans give farmers the tools they need to optimize yields even if they don’t have the capital up front.
- Trainings – Our trainings give farmers the knowledge necessary for proper use of their inputs.
- Group Work – Nuru farmers work together to farm and pay back their loans. This makes the large tasks more manageable and strengthens the community.
- Extension and Support Services – If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last year, it’s that things don’t always go as planned in the field! Nuru employs field officers to ensure our farmers can adequately overcome field challenges as they arise.
- Loan Repayment – High loan repayment rates are the key to NK Ag’s financial sustainability.
What are some of the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
Nuru has a strong culture of servant leadership. This means we work with the community and one another as equals. It also means that we have a great team of servant leaders that are truly dedicated to their work. I really enjoy working in this type of environment.
Furthermore, Nuru’s holistic approach to poverty eradication means that we have experts in many different fields working together. As a result, innovative new ideas can be shared between programs and there is always something new and exciting to discuss.
What are some challenges you’ve faced in the last year?
Loan collection is always a challenging part of our program. Although we train farmers on loans and credit and encourage them to make payments continuously as they are able, there are always a few tough farmers. Getting that last little bit of loan in from our most stubborn farmers always presents a challenge.
Another challenge I face as NK Ag District Manager is managing a very large staff. To serve 5,500 farmers, we have to employ many field staff. Sometimes, managing so many people can be quite a challenge.
What does the community have to say about NK Ag?
When I’m out talking to farmers they always tell me they are very happy with the yield increases they’ve experienced by farming with Nuru. Others tell me that we should scale even faster so that we can work with more farmers. Overall, the community is really excited about NK Ag and its future plans!
Where do you see NK Ag in the next 2 years?
I see Nuru emerging as a major actor on the national poverty alleviation scene in Kenya. Right now, we have great impact (123% yield increase in 2012!) but it is localized in Kuria West. I would like to see our program expand to new areas and serve even more farmers. Furthermore, I think our holistic model will be well developed and I hope that it can be adopted by other organizations that want to join the fight to end extreme poverty.
About Amy Sherwood
Team Leader, Nuru Ethiopia — Originally from Nebraska, Amy has spent much of the last few years researching and working in East Africa. After studying biology at Doane College, Amy pursued an MA in International Studies and Environment and Natural Resources from the University of Wyoming. As a graduate student, Amy studied community adaptive capacity to climate change by examining the drought-coping mechanisms used by small-scale farmers in rural Kenya. Prior to joining Nuru, she worked for the Jane Goodall Institute–Tanzania as a project and volunteer coordinator for the Roots & Shoots program in Dar es Salaam. Amy has also worked for the University of Wyoming and the University of Nebraska as a research assistant, the Wyoming Conservation Corps, and in small-scale organic agriculture.Read More Stories of Hope