Saturday, May 25, 2013

Career Fair Cologne Germany

We visited the Career Fair in Cologne organised by Wangui Muhuthia of Mkenya Ujerumani She is an amazing lady with a passion for sustainable development through Education. She is hell bent to have the Kenyan diaspora and especially in Germany taking a serious path and seize the many opportunities offered in Germany's education system.

You can read about us under this link

It was a great day with lively discussion and  a challenge to the Kenyan community in Germany to start being focused on the way forward.

Rachel Mwakazi of and (my beverage sister)!! took us through the challenges of starting a business in Germany especially for Non-EU citizens, what to do and which offices to approach.

At the fair we decided to form a business forum, where we will be exchanging ideas on how towork towards accomplishing trade promotion and investment between Kenya and Germany and vice versa.

It was a great and inspiring event and we look forward to the next meetings.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The beginning of a long journey with our Arabicas

My community has been dissappointed for many year with the earnings ( if any ) from coffee cultivation.
Many of them cut down their coffee trees in the early 90's when the coffee prices fell down Internationally.
Hundrends of these farmers need a lot of conviction to replant again the coffee bushes. Many have abandoned the coffee farms or simply put up rental structures!

Our volunteer group in Kenya is comprised of youth and we have vowed to put back some sence into the coffee sector. Why cant it pay the farmers? is it not a business just like any other?

We took our jembes ( hoes) and headed back to the fields! Operation planting new coffee bushes!
You see we are tired of living from hand to mouth. We are tired of surviving on less than a Euro per day...we are tired of being statistics!!

The Coffee Research Foundation of Kenya has ben there since time immemorial. Why dont we put to use what those amazing researchers have been working on for years? Their findings are just covered with dust somewhere...
My grandmother is 88 years old, she is still a poor coffee farmer. We do not expect her to understand what CRF researched on...but we can!

Coffee variety SL 28 and SL 34 is what most of my community grows. This variety takes 3-4 years before you can harvest your first coffee bean! How many of you have a patience of 4 years?

In our research we discovered that CRF produced a new coffee variety called Batian.

''The variety known as Batian is high yielding and is expected to boost coffee production in the country. Batian is quick to establish, producing results after 18-24 months upon being planted, in addition to being suitable to all Arabica coffee growing areas.''The Variety is tall, high yielding, resistant to coffee berry disease and leaf rust''

Bingo!! Santa had come early!! is this not what we had been looking for?
a) A variety that took less time to mature?- you see my people had been dissapointed for too long; i couldnt get them to start toiling their land again and wait for 4 years: they wanted their money yesterday :(

b) For years they had struggled with the notorious leaf rust etc...these coffee diseases dug deep into their pockets..they had no more desire to get into debts any more !!We now had a solution, our future looked brighter!

So we got down to work....


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sustainable coffee farming

When we decided to embark on this journey, we didnt have a Trust fund or Government grant sitting somewhere waiting to be utilised.....but we didnt need any money! You see i do not believe in Aid or donations for Africa....Hell no! i believe in Enterprise. Africa is rich! and especially my community. They have the Land and Labour ( the most important aspects in this plan). All they lack is the facilitation to access the International markets. And you see that the Strength of Chania Coffee; i tell my friends- we have the best of both worlds, We Produce coffee and we happen to live in a country that consumes / exports a lot of coffee without having a single bush! I live near the City of Hamburg Germany-The biggest transition point for coffee in the world is Hamburg!!!

According to figures released by Kenya Coffee Traders Association in 2012, Germany exports 30% of Kenyan coffee... so Lets do the maths...

Every single homestead has an approximate of 150 coffee bushes each, coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world after oil (Ponte 2002). With our plan we intend to train the farmers on proper coffee cultivation methods, using means that are within ecological and social limits....our projections will be that in a few years every coffee bush can produce minimum 20 kilos.
Hence 150x20 = 2250 kilos get a price of average 100kshs ( i will use the Kenyan currency; but its approximate 1 euro per kilo).Cost of production according to our research is it takes 30-35 shillings to produce 1 kilogram of cherry.
:100-35 = 65x2250 is a profit of 146,250  ksh shillings (1,400 euro). 
This may sound as not so much money to an European mind  but its a big step to these farmers who currently get an average of 25 shillings per kilo (0.25 euro cents) gross payments.
Still on our calculations, we have farmers who even have even the capability of producing even more than 5,000 kilos....the sky is their limit!

Now tell me, if every homestead was assured of a minimum of 1,500 euro per season ( we have 2 coffee seasons) would these communities really need Aid? Remember they practise subsistence farming of maize and beans alongside coffee, so they dont need to buy food! they own the land and the homesteads, they dont need to pay rent! the proceeds from the coffee would cater for amenities like School fees, medical care and even save something for their old age!

Now you get the drift.... is that not sustainability? is that not a solution for Africa by Africans?
And what if one coffee bush could attain 40 kilo production-ITS POSSIBLE!! it has actually been done and its being done even in other coffee producing countries!

You must be wondering why i am doing this, but hej! can you imagine the kids from my community being able to go to school without a worry in the world? Thats why am doing this....i want those kids to be in school...i did amid struggles; this is my gift to them!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Self taught Roaster

Years later after my first encounter with roasting coffee, i actually embarked on a self taught coffee roasting experience.

After relocating to Germany, i always found the coffee found at the stores bitter and lacking that boldness thats so distinct of Kenyan coffees. Not that there wasn't any Single Origin Kenyan coffees being offered in the market; ofcourse there was (is) and mainly on Online shops, but the prices !!! (story of another day).
You see i suffer from one problem; i always convert the Euro € to Kenyan you can imagine my shock when a few weeks afte arriving in Germany i ordered Kenyan coffee grade AB from an online shop, the price was 23€ per kilo; if you are Kenyan and reading this, multiply that by 100 - then you will understand why i was going crazy! then i remembered my father was paid 0.25€ cents per kilo of coffee during the last harvesting season........i decided to learn how to roast coffee.

A few years later i would roast our first coffees...

Friday, May 3, 2013

Roasting Coffee growing up

Growing up, i was always fascinated by new things or Adventures.....i was the 'Tomboy' of the homestead.
I have memories of designing an 'energy saving jiko' for my mother and 'building' it from scratch! You see the inspiration came from being so tired of fetching firewood....Anyway the jiko didnt last long, it got destroyed during a fight between me and my brother.....

After the jiko incident, i needed to keep my mind busy and then thats when i started roasting coffee on the 'rugio' ( a pan that is used in Kenya to make chapatis). How did i even come about the idea? My father is passionate about coffee. Our small coffee farm was and is still the best in the brother used to say one can lie down in the nice made furrows and just go to sleep under the African clear blue sky....

One day me and my brother got so curious what would happen if we roasted the damn coffee! we waited till my parents went to church on a Sunday. Armed with our little ndebes we headed to the shamba and picked some coffee. In our childhood innocence we figured that if we threshed the coffee beans just like my mother threshed maize we would get the pulp out. The gods were on our sides; the community's pulping station is just 800 m from my home, so we actually had a vague idea about coffee processing.

Anyway its a long story, but in the end we had roasted cofffee; well it was something between coffee and charcoal ;)
Back then the idea of Chania Coffee was slowly forming, but i was still a child. I still had the whole world infront of me, i wanted to get drunk and party...... things became so difficult i remember swearing never to get married to a coffee farmer! Like my childhood friends, we swore to each other to 'get out' of the village! away from the coffee, away from the struggles, away from the poverty. We was tired....we had been robbed off our childhood! we spent hours and days picking the coffee, spent nights queing at the pulping stations (wet mills) to have our produce selected, weighed and logged.we wanted out...

Many years later, after spending 16 years without having picked a coffee bean; i came back. I came back to my people a wiser person, ofcourse i didnt marry the coffee farmer :D!!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Chania Coffee- The concept

My name is Muthoni Schneidewind, am a Kenyan living and working in Germany. My friends and family call me Soni.

I was born and brought up in the coffee producing communities of The Aberdares and Mt Kenya mountains in Kenya.

I grew up picking coffee as a child. Me and my siblings always formed part of the 'workforce' in my parents coffee shamba during the school holidays or on Saturdays...yes 'coffee picking day' was always put on a saturday !! regardless of the weather conditions; you see in the Aberdares, you might be getting baked under the hot tropical African sun in one minute, and the next it will rain hailstorms! I have  great memories from this...memories of struggle and despair...... i also have fond memories of the place i still call home despite living so many miles away, i have memories of when tomorrow comes...
Some of my childhood friends didnt even come to school during the coffee seasons...their families needed them for labour.
I left my village when i was 17, to go and 'see the world'......
And my people continued picking coffee....

My father struggled to put me and my siblings through to school with the meagre earnings from the coffee the rest of the other families from my community we all lived from hand to mouth- not knowing where the next meal will eventually come from.
The African spirit of not giving up made us stronger each day that passed...

Three decades later, my community still struggles, they are still debased by a poverty that erodes ambition and pride, that sappes a man's spirit and strength and finally makes him surrender. Many of them can hardly afford proper medical care leave alone making ends meet...they toil from dawn to dusk and the proceeds from the coffee sales do not even cover the cost of production.

It is from all these struggles that i have formed Chania Coffee. This is a registered profit making Social Enterprise based in Germany my country of residence.
To make our stratgey work and be transparent in facilitating community development, i founded Kenya- Dorf- Volunteers (KEDOVO e.V) which is a registered Non-Profit Organisation in Germany.
We plan to put a stop to the shrewdness of the middlemen that dominate the coffee supply chain!
Me and my 'gang' will bombard the Roasters and Importers here with our concept and connect these communities to International markets especially in Germany and other parts of Europe. My group of volunteers in our Kenyan Chapter, which is a registered Non-Profit Community Based Organisation (KEDOVO -CBO)  will dwell on Capacity Building to train my coffee producing community on Sustainable coffee farming.
Our core values are Transparency and Honesty. We will make sure that the coffee money filters back to these communities through a transparent model of Direct Trade and Partnership with the communities.
My people will sell their coffee Direct to Germany....may the force be with us.

Through part of the revenue derived from the sale of coffee in Germany via Chania Coffee and the Partnerships that we will form along the journey, Kedovo e.V will undertake the projects of Rural development for the community in Kiganjo, Nyeri, where we will work towards the following areas:

i) Education for Sustainable development
ii) Income Generating Projects- esp for the women & youth
iii) Access to clean water, Health, Hygiene and Sanitation.
iv) Sustainable coffee farming practises that are within the Ecological, Economical & Social limits that will respect the crop, the farmers and the soil.
v) Food Security
vi) Support Orphaned & Vulnerable children in the community.

This blog will be a place where we can start our journey together, it will be a great Adventure where we will share our story and bring hope to these communities. Through this great Adventure we will show them that everything is possible. This is where we will tell Our Story, Our Way..... We want to make sure that the Chania Coffee story and adventure is worth remembering and repeating. Be part of our story......