Western region is looking to cut its overreliance on sugarcane as a main cash crop and is now gravitating towards coffee farming.
Mukumu Catholic Mission in Kakamega County is leading calls to farmers in the region to ditch sugarcane for the more lucrative coffee due to the woes facing cane farming including delayed or no payments at all, poor prices and low yields.
The mission owns a 70 acre farm in Kakamega County. The clergy says it has opted for coffee because of better returns coupled with the region’s climate and soil which are good for coffee farming.
“When Mill Hill Missionary fathers established this centre in 1927. The fathers saw that the environment was good for the crop and decided to grow it,” says Mr. Emmanuel Manyata, the farm’s manager.
Mr. Manyata’s predecessor Felix Lekule says when he joined the mission in 2008, he was asked by retired Bishop Phillip Sulumeti, to take the initiative of rejuvenating the coffee enterprise.
“The first thing I did after being directed to revive coffee farming was to travel to Ruiru, Kiambu County in 2013 to benchmark. I bought the seeds there and when I came back, I prepared a nursery to raise the coffee seedlings,” says Mr. Lekule.
Lekule adds that they planted the first portion of seven and half acres in 2014. According to him the first harvest was in 2015 which yielded about 950 kilograms of pulped dry coffee which was delivered to a factory in Eldoret.
“We first planted Ruiru 11 and Batia varieties. We preferred the two species because they are high yielding mature very fast. It only takes one or one and a half years for you to harvest,” says Lekule.
The former farm manager says the clergy was so impressed by the yield they scaled up production to the current 16 acres and projects this season’s yield to be 5,000 kilograms.
“After harvesting the coffee beans are pulped to remove husks, fermented, cleaned and dried in readiness for sale to millers,” Lekule said.
He further added, “The coffee beans are not delivered to miller wholesome but rather semi-processed. A kilogramme sells at Sh.100”
He says the enterprise is providing source of income for the locals who work as casual labourers to w**d and pick coffee while others are allowed to grow vegetables on the farm in exchange for their services.
This comes in the wake of a plan by the government to revive the sector in an attempt to restore the crop’s former glory days that saw it nicknamed the country’s “black gold”.
Speaking during an agricultural show on September 18, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Mwangi Kiunjuri said that the government will be investing Ksh1.3 billion to revive the industry.