Nuru Kenya Agriculture Focuses on Building Organizational Sustainability

Sustainability is a complex word with multiple meanings. In the agricultural sector, it is important to consider how to operate in an environmentally sustainable manner. My colleague, Matt Lineal, wrote this blog on the environmental sustainability of Nuru’s Agriculture Program back in May 2013. Another important type of sustainability is financial sustainability. Nuru uses its Social Enterprises program to address this aspect of sustainability. Maintaining a focus on sustainability can be challenging, but, at Nuru, there is a third type of sustainability considered, which we often refer to as organizational sustainability.

One aspect of organizational sustainability is building up local leaders so they are able to drive programs forward and overcome challenges after foreign resources and staff from Nuru International have exited the project. Nuru has an entire program that focuses on this aspect of sustainability – the Leadership program. However, there are other aspects of organizational sustainability that programs need to consider such as staffing models, program structure, team roles & responsibilities.

In the last few months, the Nuru Kenya Agriculture Program (NK Ag) has begun focusing heavily on organizational sustainability in many ways. The first big step toward achieving organizational sustainability is having upper level positions completely staffed out. For a long time, the upper level staff consisted of a Program Manager and two field directors. However, NK Ag is large and the workload is great. To alleviate some of the work burden on key individuals, NK Ag has made two key hires. In July 2013 the program hired an Alternative Crop Specialist. This position will soon be transitioning to a Research and Innovations Manager position. The more recent hire is an Operations Manager who will assist with data organization & reporting, budget management and HR collaboration. These key hires will allow other key staff to focus on the field activities and overall strategy of NK Ag.

Another way NK Ag is addressing organizational sustainability is by working out a long-term plan in conjunction with other impact programs. As Nuru Kenya grows it is important to re-evaluate operations to see how they can be come more effective, efficient and integrated. Over the last 3 months, NK Ag has been building out processes and ideas for better collaboration with the Community Economic Development, Healthcare & Education programs. There’s still a ways to go in this process, but the first few months have been fruitful as we continue to find ways to work together more efficiently.

Finally, a big step toward the organizational sustainability of NK Ag is enrolling its leaders in the latest Leadership trainings. These trainings teach the teams about strategic planning, budgeting, management and using data to make decisions, among other topics.  The NK Ag team is very excited about this latest group of trainings and grateful to the Leadership team for all the hard work they’ve put into their development.

The road to organizational sustainability is just as rocky as the path to other types of sustainability. Building out an efficient, effective program is difficult in any setting but the NK Ag team has top-notch personnel who are giving it their all. With the support of the Leadership team and a little collaboration with other programs, the NK Ag team is confident in their ability to achieve this very important category of sustainability.  

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.

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