Murang’a unveils Sh50m coffee farmers’ kitty to revive the ailing sector

Evageline Wabet  prepares dry coffee berries.  PHOTO | EVANS HABIL
Evageline Wabet prepares dry coffee berries. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL 

Murang’a County Government at the weekend announced the formation of Sh50 million kitty to rejuvenate the region’s ailing coffee sector.

Governor Mwangi wa Iria said the kitty will be used to upgrade coffee bushes in the county from the traditional varieties being grown to the technology-driven varieties such as Ruiru 11 and Batian.

The aim, the governor added, is to significantly lower farmers’ cost of production.

“We want the cost to be lowered to at least Sh40 per kilo from the current Sh110. That will be possible if we avail to farmers disease resistant varieties and which do not have extensive husbandry,” he said.

The new kitty will be administered by Amica Savings and Credit Society, previously known as Murata Sacco.

Mr wa Iria said the county government will over the next six months distribute the Batian and Ruiru 11 varieties to an estimated 50, 000 farmers at a cost of Sh5 million.

A further Sh10 million will be used to produce subsidised fertilizers for the farmers.

The rest of the funds will be used to offer credit to growers at five per cent interest rate. “This is to help the farmer carry on with his life as he awaits harvests and payments,” he said.

He said the setting aside of funds for the kitty was in line with partial fulfilment of a five-year term programme launched in 2014 and dubbed “Kahawa bora”, an initiative aimed at reviving the coffee sector in the county.

The initiative addresses challenges of production, governance and marketing.

Currently, the initiative is providing farmers with animal manure at a subsidised price of Sh15 for 20 kilos.

Mr wa Iria said he had since established an independent coffee directorate with its coffee director in addition to the county director of Agriculture.

“The role of the department is to give us a formula of establishing domestic market for coffee consumption within this region and liaise with other stakeholders so as to offer us a market infrastructure that will penetrate emerging markets including China, Russia and Africa,” he said.

Albert Mwaniki, the country chief executive for agriculture, said the administration was working out a plan that will see it partner with stakeholders to establish value addition as a strategy for penetration of local and regional markets.

He added the county’s total area under coffee farming stands at 13,325ha with 46 coffee societies grouped in 136 factories. Their annual production is 50,000 tonnes.

“By 2018 we are committed to seeing that production hitting at least 150 kilos. But it also depends on whether the central government will get its marketing structures right since so far it has been unable to establish policies that are progressive and unfriendly to middlemen,” he said.

Kenya has continued to produce some of the world’s most elegant and distinctive coffee despite grower discontent and urban encroachment on prime coffee lands.

About 85 per cent of Kenya’s coffee is sold overseas through the Nairobi Coffee Exchange, a long supply chain that has reduced farmers’ earnings. 
Much of the Kenyan coffee is exported as cleaned beans and only five per cent is value-added, causing producers to miss out on the high prices paid for selling roasted and packaged coffee.