The establishment of a coffee milling plant in Nandi County has seen more farmers taking up coffee production in Rift Valley and Western Kenya.
The Great Rift Coffee Dry Mill at Ndonyongaria, near Eldoret International Airport, is attracting more producers to the high-value crop.
The mill is fully operational and receives coffee for processing from farmers in Nandi, Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, Elgeyo Marakwet and Baringo counties.
The catchment region is best known for maize, wheat, tea, sugarcane and dairy production. But farmers are now taking advantage of the facility to venture into coffee production, whose processed product is graded and marketed through Nairobi Coffee Exchange.
The Standard spoke to a number of farmers whose economic fortunes have been transformed by the high-value cash crop.
"Unlike in the past when we had to transport our produce to distant processing facilities using middlemen, now we can easily access the Great Rift Coffee who process, grade our end-product and pay us according to quality. We make better income since our coffee does not go to waste through long transportation," said Stephen Njuguna, a farmer from Tinderet, Nandi county.
Njuguna said he ventured into coffee production four years ago and he is now seeking to expand production acreage since the value chain facility is near his farm.
"I have 20,000 mature coffee bushes and I am taking advantage of agronomic services offered by Great Rift Coffee to expand the production and quality of my coffee," said Njuguna.
Divinah Tuwei, a farmer and member of Kipngoror Coffee society in Mosop sub-county in Nandi county, said she ditched maize farming for coffee due to high production costs.
"Coffee is more marketable and generates better income compared to other agricultural ventures," said Tuwei during a farmers' field day at Ndonyongaria.
The event that was graced by Great Rift Coffee Company Chief Executive Officer Zakiya Muge brought together stakeholders in the coffee industry.
"We decided to have the facility closer to farmers to boost their earnings and improve livelihoods," she said.