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Climate change casts shadow on coffee farming

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Climate change not only affects the picking of the coffee but also control of pests and diseases. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • The coffee plant has experienced too much rain since the beginning of the picking season, meaning the flowering process will be late thus delayed picking.
  • Farmers were supposed to have finished picking their coffee last month but a majority are still harvesting this month, a phenomenon that has not been witnessed before.

Production of coffee in the Mount Kenya region has drastically changed due to unpredictable weather patterns that have altered the cycle of the crop.

Farmers have been grappling with extremely dry weather and continuous rainfall, which adversely affect the flowering of the coffee plant.

Flowering occurs when the coffee plant has undergone water stress for a couple of months, which should be followed by rainfall for it to produce coffee optimally.

But the coffee plant has experienced too much rain since the beginning of the picking season, meaning the flowering process will be late thus delayed picking.

Farmers were supposed to have finished picking their coffee last month but a majority are still harvesting this month, a phenomenon that has not been witnessed before.

Usually, the coffee calendar has two seasons in which farmers pick the early crop between April and May and the main crop in October and December.

But as it is now, farmers started picking their coffee in December and finish in February, meaning it would take time before it is sold and farmers are paid.

Climate change not only affects the picking of the coffee but also control of pests and diseases, which hugely manifest during the cold season.

“Due to the changing weather patterns, the coffee bush is bearing berries at different stages of maturity and at the same time flowering which should not be the case,” said Joseph Mukuha, a farmer, adding that it makes it hard to mitigate pests and diseases.

Chrysogon Wang’ondu, a farmer, said: “Managing the disease has proved hard because previously we knew when to spray which chemical but now it is so hard to even find the chemicals at the factories.”

On Tuesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the roll-out of the Sh3 billion Cherry Advance Revolving Fund, which offers coffee farmers advance payment ahead of harvesting, within 30 days.