Hot, sunny days are slowly transitioning into cloudy cool ones as the long rains season is about to start in Kuria West. Farmers are busy finishing up their short rains harvesting activities and preparing their land for the new season. At Nuru Kenya Agriculture, the staff have just finished distributing loans of fertilizer and certified seed all across the district. Completing input issue is a great accomplishment; the preparations for it began as early as September when the staff began recruiting new farmers. Yet the work of Nuru Kenya Agriculture is far from over. In addition to distributing these inputs, the staff must now teach farmers how to properly use them. To do this, the Nuru Kenya Agriculture field managers and officers hold a series of farmer trainings. These trainings are one essential part of the Nuru Kenya Agriculture Program’s strategy to increase crop yields all over Kenya.

At every step of the maize farming season, Nuru Kenya’s field officers are there to provide expertise and support to its farmers. The training series for 2013 started in December and will continue through July. The training series is a comprehensive package aimed at teaching farmers how to properly use their inputs, work together to accomplish more, plan for their family’s annual consumption needs and repay their loans on time. The trainings aim to impart invaluable technical knowledge to farmers while at the same time empowering farmers to be leaders in their households and communities.

The first training in the series is ground preparation. In all of Nuru Kenya Agriculture Program’s trainings, the staff instructs the farmer what to do and why each step is important. In ground preparation training farmers learn how plowing properly can help them eliminate weeds to ensure their maize is healthier and save them time later in the season during weeding.

Next comes planting training. During this training farmers learn to plant in rows and properly space their maize. They are also educated about the proper application of diammonium phosphate, a planting fertilizer. Planting training is followed by gapping training, which teaches farmers to replace seeds that failed to germinate.

The planting season usually ends in mid-March. The maize grows taller as the rains continue; and, unfortunately, so do the weeds. There is a strong correlation between good yields and properly weeded fields, so the next training the Kenyan staff gives is weeding and topdressing. Weeding can be very hard work, so the weeding training helps reinforce its importance in addition to teaching proper techniques. During this training farmers also learn how to properly apply calcium ammonium nitrate, a topdressing fertilizer.

Once the maize has formed cobs and kernels, the Agriculture staff knows the time for harvest is nearing. Around harvest time, there are three different trainings. The first one is aimed at the technical aspects of bringing in maize from the field. The second, shelling and bagging training, aims to reduce post-harvest losses among farmers by teaching them proper handling and storage techniques. Completing the series is loan repayment training. This training is ultra crucial as it teaches farmers how to divide their maize harvest to ensure they have enough food for their family, pay the balance on their agricultural loan and have some left over for sale to bring in money for things like school fees.

Farmer trainings are an essential part of the Nuru Kenya Agriculture program. The staff knows that equipping farmers with the tools for good maize harvests is only one piece of the equation. To really improve yields, farmers must also receive knowledge about how to use those tools. The agricultural training series aims to impart this vital knowledge and empower farmers at every step of the long rains season.