Coffee farmers in Kirinyaga County are set to reap big as the county government implements a massive revitalisation programme in the sector.
The programme is focused on increasing coffee production and productivity within 18 coffee factories in seven Farmers’ Cooperative Societies in the county.
Selected factories will undergo modernisation through the installation of modern eco pulping equipment, metallic coffee drying beds, coffee sorting sheds, coffee seedlings nursery, expansion of coffee conditioning bins as well as tilling of fermentation tanks and solar driers, depending on individual factory needs.
The county will also carry out capacity building of farmers and Cooperative Societies Management teams, the youth and extension officers as well as facilitate access to fertilizer subsidy and coffee seedlings.
The benefiting factories have been drawn from seven farmers' cooperatives namely Mutira, Ngiriambu, Baragwi, Karithathi, Rung’eto, Mwirua, Kabare.
Vice Chairman of Mwirua Farmers’ Cooperative Society Julius Muriuki, said that farmers are looking forward to the benefits of the program.
"Our factory Karia-ini, will benefit from a modern eco-pulping machine, metallic drying beds and a modern coffee seedlings nursery," he said.
Muriuki said the eco-pulping machine which uses less electricity and water will enhance efficiency in coffee pulping and enable the farmers to save on water and electricity.
“It is also faster and thus will pulp double the amount of coffee pulped by the old machine at one given time,” said Muriuki.
He added that the availability of coffee nurseries will enable them to produce high-yielding seedlings for sale to farmers in the cooperative society with an aim of increasing the number of coffee bushes in the area which will in return increase production.
“Demand for high-yielding varieties of coffee is very high and we aim to bridge that gap by propagating our own seedlings at the factory for distribution among our farmers,” he said.
Chairman of Mutira Farmers’ Cooperative Society Francis Karimi, said Kiangundu Coffee Factory will get an Eco Pulper, an expanded conditioning bin and a modern coffee seedlings nursery.
"The modern eco pulper has a capacity of pulping five tonnes of coffee per hour as opposed to the three tonnes pulped by the traditional machines," he said.
He said that the modern machine will produce up to 98 percent of properly pulped berries as opposed to the traditional machines that nip more berries thus reducing the quantity of well-pulped berries.
This will lead to an improvement in the quality of coffee being processed at the factory level and reduce the cost of production translating to more income for farmers.
“We have been carrying out repairs on the wooden beds every season but with metallic ones, we will save that money for the benefit of the farmer,” said Mr Karimi, adding that the metallic beds also allow for proper drying of coffee.
Governor Anne Waiguru has said through Wezesha Kirinyaga economic stimulus program, her administration is committed to empowering farmers to increase agricultural productivity with the aim of increasing their incomes.
"The county has been supporting farmers to diversify their practice, the traditional cash crops such as coffee and tea have not been left behind since they have a great potential in turning around the county’s economy," she said.
She said that the modernisation of coffee factories will increase efficiency and cut production costs translating to more earnings for farmers. Kirinyaga County produces an average of 40,000 tons of coffee annually earning farmers around Sh2.8 billion.
Most of the coffee is produced by smallholder farmers who collectively sell through their Cooperative Societies.