Meet Oliver Simiyu
Oliver Simiyu loves farming. He joined One Acre Fund several years ago as a farmer, and quickly rose to the level of field director for Kimilili, one of our newest districts in Kenya. Before joining One Acre Fund, Oliver volunteered his time to help farmers in Uganda access quality inputs. He is known for his kind heart and motivational speeches, and for always putting Farmers First.
When did you start working with One Acre Fund?
I enrolled with One Acre Fund in 2009 as a farmer and group leader in North Nalondo, Chwele, Kenya. Because of my good work in helping my fellow farmers, I was nominated to participate in a field officer interview process, and was one of those selected. In my first year with One Acre Fund, I worked with 216 farmers, more than any other field officer in the district. Since then I have risen through the ranks until October 2014, when I was promoted to become the field director of Kimilili district.
What were you doing before One Acre Fund?
Before One Acre Fund I worked with the East African Seed Company in Uganda from 2001 to 2007. While working here, I noticed something very discouraging; many farmers were unable to produce enough food on their farms. Farmers were suffering so much, and I eventually discovered the cause of their trouble. Many of them were being duped into buying fake and uncertified seed and fertilizer, which had flooded most of the market. The bad quality seed led to poor harvests, and many farmers had given up on farming because of this.
Together with six of my colleagues I founded the Uganda National Agro Inputs Dealers Association (UNADA) in 2003. The major goal of this association was to help farmers access quality seed and fertilizer. We would go around all the agricultural shops in the town, assessing the quality of the supplies they were selling. Then we told farmers which shops sold quality seed, and directed farmers to buy from those shops. We did this work on a volunteer basis.
What were your achievements with UNADA?
In the first season of UNADA’s existence, we saw a very big change in the farmers’ harvests. Even those farmers who had given up started farming again! Eventually, most of the agricultural shops became more careful about the orders they made to wholesalers, paying attention to whether or not they were stocking genuine goods.
Why did you decide to come back to Kenya and leave UNADA?
I was never comfortable while working in Uganda. I knew that the problems farmers face there are the same problems that farmers in my village in Kenya face. I wanted to come back home and use the skills I had gained to help my people. When I came home and started farming, I was always ready to share my farming knowledge with my neighbors. When One Acre Fund started operating in my village, I was very excited because the organization shares the same vision I have for farmers.
Why do you love farming so much?
I’ve loved farming since I was young. In both primary and secondary school, I was the chairman of the agricultural club. Back when I was growing up, I used to admire how my mother took care of crops on the farm. I tagged along with her every time she went to farm.
People eat to live, which means they need a continued supply of food. I love farming because I get the chance to be a source of food for my people. Farming is also a long-term career. If people treat it like a business, it pays them better than any other job!
Why is it important for farmers to be supplied with quality seeds and fertilizer?
It is very important because most farmers live in remote regions where it is difficult to access markets to buy the seed and fertilizer. In some instances, farmers end up spending more on transporting the seed and fertilizer than what they cost in the first place. It is also important to supply farmers directly, because then we can guarantee the quality of seed and fertilizer they receive.
Why did you choose to work with One Acre Fund over other agricultural organizations?
With One Acre Fund I get to work with farmers, the people I so dearly cherish. Every day, my work allows me to directly impact farmers’ lives. If I worked somewhere else, I may not have been able to impact people the way I do here at One Acre Fund.
What is your motto?
Hard work pays; it gives us the ability to go the extra mile and produce top-notch results.