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State identifies 92 technologies to revitalize the Coffee Sector

The government has taken several initiatives to address the declining production of coffee.

In the last one year, Coffee Research Institute (CRI) has identified 92 Technologies, Innovations and Management Practices (TIMPS) in the coffee value chain, out of which 62 are ready for promotion.

This follows the continuous decline in productivity and production of the crop to 34,000 tonnes from a peak of 128,000 tonnes in 1988, with coffee earnings also falling from Sh$500 million to the current $250 million.

Flagging off a major initiative towards coffee improvement that will see a turnaround strategy recommended by a task force the government formed in 2017, the Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO) has been promoting these technologies, which have the potential to raise productivity from the present average of a 2kg per tree to the envisaged 10kg per tree.

KALRO, Director General Dr. Eliud Kireger said that a Coffee Revitalization Program (CRP) is in place to speed up the uptake of the technologies and realize quick wins to spur the industry.

Speaking during a sensitization seminar on coffee Technologies, Innovations and Management Practices (TIMPs), Kireger noted that with the current total production of 40,000 tonnes from a 2kg tree, attaining the 10kg per tree would increase the production of coffee to 200,000 tonnes, setting a new record without increasing the area under coffee.

The DG said Brazil being the main producer of Arabica coffee in the world envisions to produce 35.7 million bags in the next 12 months starting July 2022 down from 48.7 million bags two years ago, due to changing climatic conditions.

This initiative, he explained, is timely happening when there is a projected shortage of coffee and potentially high prices, thus Kenya should take advantage of the global outlook for the benefit of local farmers.

Eng. David Njogu, from the Ministry of Agriculture and the national coordinator of the coffee revitalization acknowledged that during the peak of the coffee production in the country in 1988, we used to export around 120,000 metric tonnes of green coffee, but over the last five years, production had fallen to 35,000 metric tonnes.

He explained that they have been working towards capacity building of the management of cooperative societies governance, since most of the small holder’s coffees in the country form 70 percent of the exports.

At the same time, they are using modern technology to revamp most processing plants of coffee factories that have been abandoned for a long time.

Under the revitalization programme, Eng. Njogu said that they have been able to bring players together and a Cooperative Bill was drafted and forwarded to the 12th parliament.

However, the bill did not get to the presidential assent before the close of just concluded 12th parliament but Eng. Njogu is optimistic that the incoming parliament once inaugurated will give the coffee agenda to priority.

He pointed out that through governments Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project (KCSAP) they are focusing on eight coffee growing counties namely Kiambu, Machakos, Nyeri, Murang’a, Kirinyaga, Embu, Meru and Tharaka Nithi.

“We have already, through this project done soil analysis to address the issue of soil fertility, formulated coffee specific fertilizer for the regions and we are discussing the formulation with manufacturing factories to be able to produce fertilizer for coffee blended in Kenya, for our own coffee and this fertilizer application has been a game changer,” he said.

Some of the factories such as Kibugu farmer’s society in Embu and Baragwi farmer’s society in Kirinyaga, he said, have since applied the fertilizer, resulting in tremendous yields, hence proving that it is working,” Eng. Njogu said.

He further noted, currently as they roll out of over 62 technologies, they are organizing with counties to develop a framework of delivering the technologies to the farmers in the most efficient way, before the month of November, when farmers prepare their crops for the next season.

“Digitization is being adopted in the sector from the weighing of coffee, communication and books of accounts, including storing and this has assisted and benefited over 40 societies from production all the way to the payment point,” Eng. Njogu said.

On his part, Dr. Elijah Gichuru, Institute Director at CRI in Ruiru said, “We have a program to revitalize the coffee and the essence is to increase the production at the production level, quality at the exit and the farmers point of view, as well as primary processing, which is under the cooperatives.”

On matters technology, Dr. Gichuru said that they are incorporating new ways of coffee processing like drying with the sun, using solar energy other than electricity and fossil fuels, looking at expanding of coffee areas such as going to western of the Rift valley to increase the acreage of land under coffee.

“The revitalization program through the KCSAP will be going on for the next three weeks and starting Monday September 5th, we will be training farmers from the eight counties on the new technologies to improve this sector,” he added.

In the last production year, Dr. Gichuru said they were able to produce seeds about 9 million seedlings and they have released around 800,000 seedlings to farmers.

“We are just from one harvesting season that is May, June and July and we expect the next one to pick up in October up to January. This is the time to put in seedlings on the ground, which will be planted again at the earliest in November, when the short rains start and then we will also have seeds, which the farmers can put on the ground in their nurseries and then they plant in April next year,” said the Institute Director.

The target is to provide not less than 4 tons of seeds per year that will give farmers not less than 12 million seedlings per year and if this level is maintained, within the next three to five years, we will have served the current demand, added Dr. Gichuru.

Meanwhile, improving coffee production is essential considering that an estimated 700,000 families in the country derive their livelihoods directly from the crop.

By Wangari Ndirangu

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