Sunday, December 31, 2017

The plants that put food on our table



Once upon a time, coffee was a major export earner in my country, then it was overtaken by other sectors and is now ranked 4th after horticulture, tea, and tourism. The industry now contributes about 3.2% of Kenya’s foreign exchange earnings, a drop from the 40% contribution in the good years gone by. ..sigh


Every morning millions of people get up to a fresh brewed cup of coffee which at times they take for granted –coffee before work, on road trip pit stops, cups brewed out of boredom, coffee dates- each of those cups necessary, effortlessly and immediately accessible.

Those cups are products of hours of work, years of patience, decades of struggle for coffee producers and their families.

The KEDOVO Coffee Project set out to improve the lives of coffee farming communities in Nyeri , Kenya by connecting the coffee in your cups to these farmers. Farmers like my father, and his father, farmers who grow coffee because it is a way of living, surviving and because it is what their ancestors have left them. Farmers like Kedovo farmer Wilson Mwangi, who struggle to send their children to school in the city and hope they come back with some knowledge to help them survive in the unpredictable future in coffee farming mountains of the Aberdares.


Coffee in my country is threatened by drought and climatic change. The coffee Leaf Rust took over most of the farms in the crop year 2016/ 2017. Production dropped to 50%. Most farmers were helpless and felt there would be no solution. My father was no exception and he lost most of his harvest. He had to remove the affected coffee plants appx 300 trees. Growing up these coffee plants put food on our table, by removing them a part of us went away with them…most of the farmers feel the same, a piece of us is gone, because after all, this is their livelihood. This is the way they eat. This is the way they send their kids to school.

Almost a year later most of his trees have sprouted, a dark cloud hangs still in his eyes, hes still worried if the Leaf rust will strike again. Kedovo Coffee Project continues to train the farmers especially on comprehensive soil management techniques. Soil fertility is one of the main focuses and the farmers are taught how to protect the soil through shade and how to effectively use “cover crops.”

Over the last years, the rain pattern has completely changed. Rain comes at a time when you don’t expect it. Sunshine at time when you should be having rain. We are a worried lot…For the coffee addicts in my adopted country the impact of what is going on in my village will translate to slightly higher bill for a slightly worse cup of coffee. But for my people the consequences will be much more dire…
Most of the young people in my village gave up the ''proffession'' of coffee farming to look for work in the bigger cities, experts say the coffee industry is struggling because of this.
I sit in my office on a cold winter, all grey outside ...and worry about my people. The plants that put food on our table. This is the pride of my people, their community roots...it cannot be replaced.
The Kedovo Project on Sustainable Education continues to support the education requirement of the children of its coffee producers. Many ask me, if you educate them, will they not leave the village? Will you not be faced with the same big problem of migration to cities? Our believe is that if these young people from my village had access to unlimited eduaction chances ,they would finish their degrees, come back to the coffee farms and put their newfound knowledge into practice. What if we in the coffee industry worked hand in hand with them so they can aspire to be producers, like my father and his father, but producers with better Agronomic practices, we trained them to be roasters, give them chances to be exporters and baristas...what if?
Can we all vision small coffee farms on the foothills of Mt Kenya, where you could find agronomists, chemists, Exporters ,social workers....the list is long. Would we not rewrite the economics of coffee? By providing better future for these children we will be providong a future for the coffee industry.
We finally finished the Adminstration Block of Ndurutu Primary school.This school is 300 Metres from the Ndurutu Wet Mill which is one of the mills under Kedovo Coffee Project. The Adminstration Block was handed over to the community and will also be used as a meeting point for the Board of the Parents Teachers Association who now continues to do monitoring on the school with KEDOVO-Kenya offering advisory services.
Ndurutu Primary has currently 160 School kids from Pre-Unit to Class 8.
The purpose of the KEDOVO Social Development Projects in the coffee farming communities in Nyeri, is to promote economic development, direct trade and improve the livelihoods of these small-scale coffee farmers, their families and communities.We have long-lasting and trusting relationships with these communities, and our social development support is based on individual community needs.
It has been a wild incredibly busy 2017 for the Kedovo Coffee Project.  51 tonnes of green coffee, shipped to Germany. You all are amazing…and thus have helped the  KEDOVO Coffee Project to  bring together these farmers to work towards a common economic goal.

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