Tom Nyongesa Juma has worked in Nuru Kenya’s Agriculture Program as District Manager since 2012.  Originally from Bungoma, Kenya, Tom has long-standing personal and professional experience in smallholder agriculture.  He holds a BS in Forestry and a M. Phil in Soil Science from Moi University. Below, find Tom’s update on what the Nuru Agriculture Program is doing in Kuria, Kenya. 

It’s the middle of the long rains season in Kuria West, Kenya. After the largest successful input issue since the inception of Nuru Kenya, the Agriculture Program has successfully trained our 5,500 farmers on many topics. Our hard work is showing results, as maize across the district is dark green and growing taller by the day. The rains have been heavy and consistent, and farmers are in a relaxed mood because it seems they will yield a bountiful harvest. Each planting season we have a lull in our training cycle between top-dressing training and harvesting training. This year, we used this time to reconnect with our stakeholders while improving the Agriculture Program staff’s knowledge and skills. In April and May we held a stakeholders meeting at Nuru Kenya headquarters in Isebania and took a field trip to Kisumu, Kenya to learn from the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) and the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute (KARI).

Our success in the field has resulted in Nuru Kenya receiving a lot of praise from the community, its leaders and other stakeholders such as the Ministry of Agriculture. Many people understand and appreciate the way we have improved food security in the area. We have also taken steps to strengthen our good public relations with the farmers and community at large. For example, we ensure that all local administration and opinion leaders are invited to the trainings in their areas. This gives them a chance to interact with our staff, and to be recognized and appreciated for the support that they provide.

Another step we took towards enhancing our community relations was to organize a large stakeholder meeting at the Nuru Kenya headquarters. This event brought together Assistant Chiefs, Chiefs, District and Divisional Ministry of Agriculture officers, National Cereals and Produce Board officers, representatives from other non-governmental organizations and lead Nuru Kenya farmers from each sub-location. At the meeting we discussed many topics: from Nuru Kenya’s future plans to how stakeholders might better coordinate their efforts to benefit farmers. This opportunity allowed us to receive feedback from stakeholders while giving us a formal platform to educate others about our goals and activities. Lastly, because Nuru Kenya has a holistic development focus, the attendees received reports from many of our other programs including Healthcare, Education, Monitoring & Evaluation, Social Enterprise and Social Marketing. This forum effectively improved the working relationship between Nuru Kenya and the community. We feel strongly that maintaining these relationships with other stakeholders will help us operate more effectively now and in the future.

Beyond meetings at Nuru Kenya’s offices, the Agriculture Program engaged with our stakeholders in other ways as well. As you may know, Nuru Kenya Agriculture scaled to seven new sublocations in 2013. This meant that our field managers took on a whole new level of responsibility because their coverage area and farmer numbers increased. To equip our staff with the skills and knowledge they need to meet the challenge, Nuru Kenya Agriculture organized a professional development trip to visit the NCPB and the KARI in Kisumu, Kenya. The visits enabled the senior Agriculture Program staff to refresh their skills and improve their knowledge on a wide variety of topics including maize crop management, disease control, soil fertility and erosion, alternative crops, and post-harvest handling of various crops. As Nuru Kenya advocates a training-of-trainers method for relaying information, the acquired experience was channeled from our field managers to our field officers and farmers. We are also using the information to reassess and revamp our trainings so that we are always teaching our farmers the most up-to-date practices for maximizing their yields and minimizing their post-harvest losses.

Throughout the year, our focus is our farmers and how we can improve their crop yields. Most of our time is spent working towards this goal by providing loans, training and field support. However, it is also important that through all of our busy seasons we keep in contact with our stakeholders and find ways that we can support one another to achieve common goals. Furthermore, taking time out to focus on our staff’s knowledge and development helps us work towards the goal of leadership sustainability. Taking a bit of time to focus on these areas means we are now headed into the 2013 harvest season equipped with new knowledge and strengthened partnerships with our farmers, local officials and other organizations in Kuria West.