At harvest, Kurians rely mostly on traveling buyers to sell their maize. Because of the high seasonal supply and Kuria’s relative isolation, these middlemen are able to drive prices much lower than the going market rate. We’re hoping to change this. Today we broke ground at the Nuru granary construction site. The goal is to have it finished in time for the harvest following the short rain season. Having a granary will allow Nuru to buy farmers’ maize at fair market prices and store it to bargain more effectively with maize buyers, or take advantage of higher off-season prices.

It is really exciting to see. Coming to Kuria, there were certain things I expected Nuru wouldn’t be able to impact. You can provide skills training or access to capital, but how do you deal with isolated geography or lack of large-scale infrastructure? How does small business development work in rural communities where growth is often limited by lack of market access? Roads and infrastructure connect rural regions to commercial centers. But should a foreign NGO do or fund the work of a country’s own government? Sometimes there are important but broad issues that individual organizations can’t affect, like market access. But by building the granary, we are actually doing that! We aren’t paying to pave the road to Nairobi, but we can provide Nuru farmers with an alternative to off-loading their maize at low prices.

The community welcomes the option. There are field officers and managers from all programs working, and the location and sub-location chiefs stop by to help out. Nuru farmers are chipping in towards materials to show their buy-in on the project. Talk about foundation building. It’s always reassuring to see such an open display of community support.

I try to help, but my shoveling prowess impresses no one and the shovel is tactfully redistributed. They are neatly cutting grooves into the dirt using machetes and hoes. One Nuru farmer is skillfully wielding what looks like a rusted hockey stick. It’s a hot, cloudless day and the farms and houses below look misty. Fields of bright green maize are all around us. I try to picture the granary when it’s finished. Farmers will not only be able to sell their maize, they will be able to automatically deposit sales money in their Nuru savings account. I was told that in the past, farmers receiving large lump-sum payments for their tobacco harvests were often robbed on their way home, so this will be important for safety as well for encouraging saving. At times it seems far in the future, but the time will pass quickly. Only two months ago the granary plans were being explained to me and today I am sitting on its foundation, watching a field officer patch up the gaps left by my shoveling attempt.