I trekked through Ganze for three days this week, stepping outside my role in Procurement and Logistics to translate for Wharton’s visiting research team. During my visits to Ganze I learnt a lot, including the ways in which field staff carry out daily activities to make their work and KOMAZA more successful.
The Facilitators meet with farmers several times a month for training and shamba visits, and they see Field Officers twice a week to discuss farmers’ challenges and how to overcome them. The Facilitators have made their own scheduling tool to help plan farmer visits, which can be adjusted in cases of emergencies.
Farmers in rural Kenya generally don’t follow a set schedule, however. Family, funerals and time-sensitive agricultural activities can draw farmers away from home on the day of a scheduled visit. Given these logistical challenges, the Wharton team asked Facilitators how they ensure farmers are up-to-date with their visits.
One Facilitator named Japheth said that he calls all farmers who have a mobile phone. Many farmers, however, don’t have phones. In these cases, Japheth organizes a way for farmers to receive and deliver information through neighbors who happen to be their friends. Creative problem solving like this is required on a day-to-day basis in the field.
I also learnt how KOMAZA field employees effectively communicate information between their team and nearly 1000 widely disbursed farmers. They pass messages from the office to the field following a top-down communication chain that relies on word-of-mouth and mobile phones. Information flows in a structured way: Headquarters → Field Managers → Field Officers → Facilitators → Farmers. We receive feedback from farmers and field staff through a bottom-up approach by reversing the same chain. This channel of communication ensures that each and every farmer and field employee has a means of voicing their opinion and receiving reliable information.
Farmers’ enthusiastically received Wharton’s research team in one of Kenya’s most remote regions, where foreign guests are rare. A farmer called David even brought out a visitor’s book for everyone to sign, including the KOMAZA Field Officer and Facilitator. Our brief visit has seems to have encouraged farmers to work even harder to make their farms a success.