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23RD JUNE 2009

Coffee was first introduced in Kenya in 1893 by Scottish

Missionary at Kibwezi and Bura. After the 1967/68
serious attack on coffee by CBD and leaf rust, breeding
work started in 1971 to develop a culture that combined
resistance to the two diseases by 1985 the coffee
research released Ruiru 11 (eleven) to coffee growers.
In 1952 it was introduced to Chesikaki and Kimabole
areas as a perennial cash crop and it still remains a
sole cash crop which farmers depends upon for income.
As of now, 37% of Kenyan coffee is consumed by
Germany, 10% by America, 8% in the Nordic countries
and 3% in the Asia Pacific, while the rest is consumed
by other small buyers. (Information obtained from Daily
Nation, Tuesday June 23, 2009 Article titled “Fresh Bids
as Sale Flops” by Mwaniki Wahome.) Despite the high
coffee consumption worldwide, most farmers today are
in dire poverty due to a wide spectrum of factors from
political issues to natural disasters, to exploitation of
middlemen. The need of a solution to this challenge is
yet to be found. Many people have suggested direct
sale as a second window for the coffee farmers;
however direct sale of coffee can only be achieved in
the Western Province until a mill built in this area.
Therefore to build a mill in the western part of Kenya is

Coffee seeds are first planted in coffee nursery, as
shown on the left hand side. At about 42 days after
planting, one would see a small sprout. Coffees are
moved into the gournd at about 9 months after it was
planted; however, 3 months before it’s planted, a hole
must be dug in the ground to prepare for the coffee tree.
Post-Harvest Processing (before sending off to mill
in Nairobi)

Ripe coffee “cherries” are sorted out by farmers to get

the best quality. The cherries are then weighed on
scale, and a receipt is given to the farmers from factory.
Fresh coffee cherries are transferred to pulping
machine where skins are peeled off to reveal the off-
white beans. This process is facilitated by the addition
of water. The white beans are sorted into three different
grades according to their density: the 1st grade which is
characterized by the largest density is the most
valuable, then followed by 2nd grade and the 3rd grade.
Each grade is transferred into its respective tank for
fermentation which can range from 24 to 72 hours,
although on average 48 hours. This process removes
the mucous membrane covering the coffee beans. It is
important to note that there is no addition of chemicals
for this process. After fermentation, beans are
transferred to into the soak tank for further removal of
dirt, and then washed in channels before taken for
drying. They are dried on the grind table for at least
14days. The Kimabole Factory has created a coffee
commandment: Thou shall not wet coffee beans. This
commandment stresses the importance of coffee beans
to be dried and stay dried, and is the coffee
commandment to be followed by every individual at the
factory. Finally dry beans are kept in storage for not
more than six month before they are transferred to
Meeting Joseph Mamai

One of the coffee farmers that we visited was

Mr. Joseph Mamai. He is well known for his homemade
fertilizer which is said to be better than any of those
found on the market. The key ingredients to his
fertilizer are ash, dead leaves and flowers, cow dung,
some soil, and maize stock.

Currently there are three most commonly grown coffee

breeds, the Ruiru 11, K 7, and L 28. The Ruiru 11 trees
tend to be very tall, hence more difficult in terms of
harvesting. The K 7 trees are much shorter in stature
and give better yield. The L 28 is grown on Mt. Elgon.
Mr. Mamai said he is currently in the process of
switching to K 7. He is anticipating harvest 10 to 20 Kg
per tree.

Meeting Joseph Malaka

Mr. Joseph Malaka from IcFEM has been awarded as

the “Best Coffee Farmer of the Year” for his high yield of
coffee. By having a good production, this has allowed
him to get a license to sell privately to Uganda. On
Mr. Malaka’s farm there is a miniature pulp
machine that allows them to process the beans on
Challenges Faced by Today’s Coffee Farmers in the Western Province

Our group was introduced to the Kimabole Factory and greeted by a group of local coffee farmers who taught us
the process of coffee farming from nursery to harvest and storage. It was also then when they acknowledged us
the problems that they are currently facing.

Currently in Kenya, there is only one miller in Nairobi for further process of the coffee beans and exportation.
Several factors are involved in the transportation of coffee beans. From Chesikaki the beans are first transported
to Bungoma then to Nairobi. Due to the length of this journey, many middlemen were involved and transportation
has become a costly process. In Nairobi, the beans are sold through a bidding system. For how much the coffee
beans were sold still remains a mystery to the coffee farmers. There is also the problem of delayed payment to
the farmers. As a matter of fact, the farmers were told that all of last year’s harvest was sold before the end of
year; however they were still not paid.

Other problems faced by coffee farmers:

o High living standards as compared to limited income

o Inadequate agricultural extension services
o Coffee black markets
o Lack of education on GMP and GAP
o High prices of farm inputs
o Kenya politics
o Ignorance
o Poor management of the cooperative societies and related organization such as KPCU, Thika mills, etc.
o Population increase in Kenya
o Lack of freedom to inherit land among communities and families
o Misconception over cooperative societies by young people
o Climatic changes
o Debts made previously and evaded their repayments due to either dormancy of members because of
death or mischief
o Emergence of new market rich has brought confusion to the coffee farmers
o Consumer attention to issues such as traceability, food safety, environmental / responsibility, fair pricing,
improved welfare of farmers / workers, which is set by coffee STDs organization called ISO
o Domination of one community in coffee marketing
o Lack of accessibility to loaning agents and / or loans
o Global economic setbacks being experienced
o Exploitation by middlemen as coffee is sold mainly in Nairobi.

Kenyan coffee has been a main cash crop for years as it is consumed worldwide, from the Americas to Europe, to
Asia Pacific. Being a coffee drinker myself, when I requested to visit the coffee farmers, I envisioned a tour that’s
similar to wine tours of the Western world where tourists are led through the plantation, then to the factory, into the
cellars and to a gift shop for any touristy purchases. I was hoping to be able to buy Kenyan coffee on site in that
same manner. To my surprise, most farmers are living in poverty as Nairobi has the sole control of most coffee
sales. Currently, coffee is mainly sold via a bidding system in Nairobi for exportation. Despite its popularity, most
coffee farmers are struggling in their production due to various reasons from political to natural, to exploitation by
middlemen due to the long journey from Western Kenya to Nairobi. Direct sell of coffee has been suggested by
many as a second window for farmers as it is necessary for the farmers to be able to enjoy the fruit of their labor.
The construction of a mill in Western Kenya will be the first step to direct sell. With the introduction of a mill on
this side of the country, this will increase job employment for the ever increasing population. As well, being able
to sell directly, it provides a second source of income to the farmers as coffee farms and factories may be a form
of tourist attraction for coffee lovers. It will also enhance international trades with Uganda and Tanzania, and will
reduce if not completely eliminate the presence of black market. Most importantly this eliminates the number of
middlemen involved in the transportation process. It may be a wishful thinking to have a mill built here in Western
Province, however it is something that we should aspire to work on.

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