For years, farmers in central Kenya have eked a living from coffee farming. Throughout the years, they have been ravaging in poverty as productivity of the crop dwindled at the expense of their pockets. At Thiriku Coffee Cooperative, located in Tetu constituency within Nyeri County, abandoned coffee drying beds paint a dull picture of what coffee farming used to be eons ago.
Poor payment, corruption by the management officials in the cooperatives, and decreasing productivity have been cited as the cause of the misfortunes that have swamped the coffee industry in Kenya. But the fortunes of farmers affiliated with Thiriku coffee Cooperative have started changing after receiving Sh121 (Kenyan Shilling) per kilogram of cherry they delivered to the wet mill. This is a significant high compared to Sh30-Sh60 per kilo that the factory had paid farmers in the previous seasons.
This remarkable improvement has come after we agreed to partner with the Thiriku Cooperative. In this directs sale agreement, we will buy directly from the farmers which will rid them of the present bureaucracy along the coffee value chain. This also means the farmers will not be at risk of being swindled by middlemen or brokers who pose as agents, millers, and marketers.
In our deal, we will be partnering with farmers through the cooperative to develop and produce high-quality and traceable coffee which it will buy and sell to roasters worldwide. Before we created an agreement with Thiriku Cooperative, we partnered Ndaroini Coffee. But due to corruption in the board of Ndaroini, we had to cancel our agreement and look to other Cooperatives willing and keen to explore a new supply chain. Read more here.
The farmers are to receive a standard Sh100 every season while Sh10 will be used as a cost to run operations in the factory. This amount will vary from time-based on the expenditure of the factory. We will also seek and guarantee cheap credit access for inputs and cherry advance when needed.
On the other hand, Thiriku farmers are expected to produce high-quality coffee and double farmers’ production by keenly following knowledge, skills, and experiences as directed by our local agronomist, Bernard Gichimu. This partnership is also aimed at ensuring the factory achieves a very high-quality cup with a score above 87/88 points while doubling its production in three years.
Currently, the farmers are producing a minimum of one kilogram per coffee bush but with the adherence to the guidelines recommended by an agronomist we have provided for the farmers, production is projected to increase to approximately 10 kilograms per coffee bush.
“We are very happy having Trabocca partner with us. There is an increment in payment for our crop which means development will cascade down to development in the community,” said Mr. Paul Macharia, a farmer and a member of the Thiriku Cooperative board.
Annually, the coffee cooperative with a membership of 1,000 farmers produced 170,073 kilograms of coffee. They are projecting to produce between 400,000 to 600,000 kilos in the next three years, starting from 2022.
In our partnership with the factory, we will also be mandated to upgrade the processing facilities at the washing station while officials at Thiriku are expected to promote and conduct business with transparency and accountability.
In the past, disappointed by the poor prices coffee was fetching, a majority of the farmers had started uprooting their coffee plantations and replacing them with other lucrative crops. But with our entry into the cooperative society and a promise of receiving Sh100 every season for their crop, farmers have started rehabilitating their farms and venturing back to coffee farming.
“We are appreciating this partnership because we have started seeing farmers get interested and returning to work on their farms,” added Mr. Paul Macharia. When word spread in the village where the factory is located, a lot more farmers have gotten interested in coffee farming.
According to Peter Ndirangu, the factory manager, farmers have started going back to their farms with the sole objective to produce quality coffee. “We have started receiving the early crop- this is harvested between April and July, and I can tell they are really working hard because of the size of berry we are receiving. They are bigger and denser,” he said.
In the five zones that make up the cooperative society, Mr. William Ndumia has been working hand in hand with Trabocca’s recommended agronomist. He says the reception by farmers is enormous. “The availability of an agronomist is really new to the farmers. We are teaching them how to look after their coffee through applying proper crop husbandry that will see an improvement in the quality and quantity of their coffee,” said Mr. Ndumia.
As the cold season beckons, the coffee plantations are susceptible to attacks by coffee leaf rust, Coffee Berry Disease (CBD), thrips among others. But with the availability of an agronomist, the farmers are getting first-hand advice on the right chemicals to apply to mitigate infestation of these pests and diseases.
According to Mr. Karoki Waiganjo, the chairman of the factory, they are glad and keen to partner with us. Besides offering higher pay for their produce, we will also offer financial intervention to ensure they produce quality coffee. “This will help us evade the jaws of auctioneers. Trabocca will provide finances in case we have a constraint where payments will be done at a later agreeable date,” noted Mr. Waiganjo.
As the factory manager, Mr. Ndirangu said he will ensure they maintain the right processing stages by adhering to the right methods of drying coffee. “We aim at ensuring that while processing, we do not tamper with quality produced by the farmers,” he added noting that they intend to improve the soaking standards and they are willing to employ any intervention that will improve the processing standards.