Nuru Kenya Agriculture Guides Farmers in Embracing Crop Diversification
In October, I wrote about the Nuru Kenya Agriculture (NK Ag) Program’s new crop offerings including brown sorghum, finger millet, maize and Grevillea trees. While the NK Ag team is very excited about growing new crops, convincing farmers to embrace diversification can be a very challenging task for any agriculture program. To encourage farmers to abandon risky monocultures and diversify their shambas (farms) this year, the NK Ag team undertook a lot of hardwork and training. The focus on crop diversification continues in this blog as I outline some of the strategies the NK Ag team used to introduce farmers to new crops.
Role Plays and Trainings
The first step in introducing farmers to new crops was to give a series of trainings on the new crops and their benefits. Beginning in September, the NK Ag team began disseminating information through farmer meetings, fliers and recruitment events. Our Social Marketing team has taught us that people often have to hear information at least seven times before they remember it! So, the NK Ag team was challenged to find ways to repeat the information while also keeping farmers engaged and interested. One way NK Ag accomplished this was by acting out various role-plays about the benefits of diversification and the dangers of monoculture. Drama is a popular form of amusement in Kenya so this was a great way to ensure the message was both educational and entertaining.
When planted using traditional methods, sorghum & millet require a lot of labor for relatively little output. However, the planting method the NK Ag program will be using will increase yield and decrease the labor burden a farmer experiences during key times like weeding. One Acre Fund, who we would like to thank for their assistance and expertise, shared this much of this new planting method with us.
To ensure farmers understood the difference between the Nuru method and the traditional method, the NK Ag program drew inspiration from the old adage, “seeing is believing.” That is, each of the program’s Field Officers and Field Managers grew their own plot of sorghum or millet. These plots explained the new planting method, visually showed farmers the yield increases and allowed the field team to gain experience growing the new crops ahead of the long rains season.
Engaging Community Leaders and Local Government
Often during times of change or uncertainty, farmers turn to community leaders such as chiefs and village elders for advice. Therefore it is important to keep community leaders informed at every step of the process. In this arena, the NK AG team received support from Nuru Kenya’s Public Relations staff. NK’s PR staff has been conducting outreach to local leaders to ensure they understand the changes to crop choices, the reasoning behind the changes and the benefits of diversification.
Introducing farmers to new crops has been a challenging and exciting new experience for the NK Ag team. For many of our farm families, agriculture is the primary source of livelihood so change can be intimidating. Yet, building a more resilient and diverse agricultural community in Kuria West is essential to long-term poverty eradication. By working together and learning from one another, the NK Ag team and the farmers of Kuria West can help ensure future generations of farmers have access to ample agricultural opportunities.
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