Activity at Kisii Warehouse
The Kisii warehouse is humming with shuffling feet against concrete, workers counting bales of seed, and people lugging bags of fertilizer to big-rig trucks. Amidst the activity, Phelix Oyath calmly oversees each movement, checking and counter-checking each input and noting changes in his stock cards.
Phelix grew up in Kendu Bay, just a stone’s throw from the region where One Acre Fund would years later set up shop. Always interested in alleviating poverty in rural areas, he studied economics and sociology at one of Kenya’s leading universities. After graduating from university in 2010, Phelix returned to rural Kendu Bay, where he saw a job listing for a field position with One Acre Fund. Filled with a passion to help farmers improve their livelihoods, Phelix applied for the job and was hired as one of five field officers in the Green Shamba district.
Phelix’s strong interpersonal skills came in handy in his new job. He enrolled 80 farmers in just two months, an exciting feat in what was a brand new area of operation for One Acre Fund. His extraordinary success, coupled with his commitment to the One Acre Fund core values of hard work and humble service, made Phelix the perfect candidate for a role on the expansions team, which works to bring the One Acre Fund model to new districts in south-western Kenya. One of just two expansion team members, Phelix played a central role in opening five new districts.
Phelix Goes To Tanzania
“Most of my colleagues declined the offer because of fear of working in a different country,” Phelix says. But Phelix felt no such fear, and two months later the vast majority of the farmers in the struggling district in Tanzania had repaid their loans in full.
Phelix returned from Tanzania invigorated and ready for a new challenge. For the 2013 season, One Acre Fund in the Nyanza region of Kenya was offering its farmers orange flesh sweet potatoes as an alternative to maize, which had been hit hard in 2012 by a devastating disease. Another new product on offer this year was the Sun King Pro solar lamp, which would provide indoor lighting in the evening, and allow farmers to charge cellphones.
“It was very challenging,” Phelix says, “because farmers were highly skeptical. In the Kisii region, people like maize; they don’t really grow sweet potatoes. One Acre Fund farmers were also planting with fertilizer – a new experience for many of them.”
Phelix says that convincing farmers to grow sweet potatoes, let alone using fertilizer, was difficult. “So to encourage them, we taught farmers how to use sweet potatoes to cook items like mandazi (a popular form of fried bread) and cakes. They gave it a try and many of them were surprised by how good it was.”
Besides the challenge of introducing sweet potatoes, 2013 was also very difficult logistically. During the busy period when One Acre Fund makes all its deliveries to farmers, Phelix was asked to help out in the warehouse. He reflects that other than loading trucks, “I was to do summaries of the truck management sheets, enter the data in stock cards, and calculate the net outflow. During the solar lamp delivery a few months later, I had to load and track the trucks when they departed and returned, and record everything.” The work Phelix did during that 2013 season is now done by three different people!
Phelix's Role Today
Today, as senior associate on the logistics team, Phelix has an entire team working under him. His team manages two 5,000-square-foot warehouses. Right now, he is in the midst of preparing for the largest input delivery in One Acre Fund history.
In many ways, Phelix says the “logistics team is the engine of One Acre Fund because we facilitate the movement of inventory from the warehouse to the farmer, who will put it to work in alleviating hunger.”
All the logistics team members work long hours during input delivery, and Phelix is no exception. However, he’s also got a lot going on at home. A newlywed, Phelix still manages to spend time with his wife, attend church every week, and pay for his three siblings to attend school.
Phelix’s faith and obligations to his family mean his job with One Acre Fund is extremely important to him, though his commitment to serving farmers has been with him since childhood. By ensuring high quality inputs make it from warehouse to farmer before the rains come, Phelix is proud to play a critical role in ensuring One Acre Fund farmers get “better yields than they ever could have imagined.”