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Association seeks to revive coffee farming in Western

WESTERN
By - | May 8th 2013 | 2 min read

By Francis Ontomwa

Kakamega, Kenya: Coffee farmers in Western Province are working on ways to revitalise the once-vibrant sector in the region.

Kenya Coffee Growers Association targets to resuscitate the sector through a unique initiative that brings on board schools and individual farmers.

The project aims to encourage farmers to start planting coffee, with plans to revive the giant Bukura Coffee Factory also underway.

When the crop was doing well in the past, farmers used to get between Sh15-30 per kilogramme against the current price of Sh30-40.

Currently, an estimated 6,900 hectares of land are under coffee, a decline from past years attributed to rise in popularity of sugarcane farming and mismanagement of the sector in the country.

“Western was a giant many years ago in coffee farming, but years of neglect, poor farming practices and poor returns for farmers brought the sector to its knees. However, we believe we can revive the sector,” stated Arnold Andabwa, the chairperson of the association.

Ugandan market

Small-scale cultivation of the crop still goes on in Ikolomani, Lugari, Kakamega, Bungoma and Busia, but majority of farmers sell their produce to Uganda where it fetches better prices.

Several primary and secondary schools in Western have already been identified in the restoration programme set to commence in June.

“We have sought audience with many schools and each institution will spare at least a quarter-acre piece of land to grow coffee, which will guarantee returns of about Sh40,000 every month,” said Andabwa.

Some of the schools that have been enlisted in the project include Ibinzo, Shimanyiro, Eshisiru and Ikonyero primary schools.

Agriculturalists argue that the area has ideal conditions for the crop, especially the Ruiru 11 variety, and its cultivation could help reduce poverty levels in the region.

Maximum benefits

Coffee can be intercropped with other crops such as groundnuts, bananas and vegetables.

“You can reap maximum benefits from your land when you grow coffee because you can grow other crops in between the trees,” observed Janet Inyangala, a farmer.

The association also intends to partner with the devolved governments and the national government to set up a coffee-processing firm in Kakamega at Juakali estate.

“Coffee Board of Kenya and even the Coffee Foundation Board have shown great interest to work with us and we will seek to have devolved and national governments come on board,” stated Andabwa.

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