The shambas (farms) of Kuria West seem deceptively quiet as the agriculture team and I conduct our fieldwork this week. The fields that just a few weeks ago were full of row upon row of tall, green maize are now barren or occupied by cattle. Along with the maize, the once ubiquitous farmers also seem to have disappeared. Only when we approach a homestead does the din of voices reappear accompanied by the sound of maize upon metal. These noises signal that despite the calm in the fields, it is one of the busiest and most exciting times of the year in Kuria West; it’s harvest season.

Most Nuru farmers have brought their maize in from the fields and are beginning to dry and shell (remove the kernels from the cob) it in anticipation for sale or storage. This is one of the most rewarding times for the agriculture program staff. As we move among the homesteads, we see mountain upon mountain of high quality maize. But, more encouraging than the maize itself, are the smiles we see on the faces of farmers and the stories they have to tell about how farming with Nuru has improved their harvests and changed their lives.

Take the story of Peter Chacha, who has now been farming with Nuru for four seasons. He says the fertilizers and seed he receives on loan from Nuru, when coupled with the trainings on how to properly use the inputs, have at least doubled and some years quadrupled his harvest. Through his increased maize yields, Peter has been able to move out from his parents’ homestead and build his own house. Furthermore, he and his wife have opened a small kiosk (shop) that provides essentials like soap, cooking oil, sugar and salt to his neighbors and serves as another source of income for Peter’s family.

Or look at the Sinda family, who through farming with Nuru has been able to pay secondary school fees for five children. Having an education could exponentially increase career opportunities for their children. Additionally, their youngest children should finish school in the next few years and the family is excited about what they might put their extra income towards once there are no more school fees to pay.

Yet, it is not only the veteran farmers who have stories to share. Farmers that are new to Nuru Agriculture in 2012 have doubled, tripled and quadrupled their harvests. Many are simply looking forward to the first year that they will have enough food to feed their family throughout the year. Others are starting to make small household improvements or finding ways to save and make money by investing in items like plows and oxen. Perhaps most importantly, many have regained the hope that life can be better in coming years and are beginning to think about how they can shape their future rather than focusing on surviving the present.

As a relatively new program manager, I realize that much of this success is the fruition of work that was conducted long before I arrived to Kuria, but I still find myself carried away by the contagious excitement of farmers and the Kenyan staff. These stories reinforce the massive potential that lies in the Nuru Agriculture program and encourage me to embrace operational challenges with a renewed sense of purpose and optimism. By expanding and refining our work over the next year, my team and I have the opportunity to build on the success of past years and continue to improve thousands of lives across Kuria West.