Colombia coffee farmers, researchers in Kenya for knowledge sharing

A delegation of coffee farmers and researchers from Colombia on Tuesday toured Nyeri County for a meeting with over 200 local growers drawn from various parts of the country.

The delegation, under the auspices of Colombia National Federation of Coffee Growers, which is in the country for five days toured coffee farms, Gikanda Farmers Cooperative Society and Gichatha-ini coffee factory to familiarize with the Kenyan coffee industry.

The tour is a follow-up of Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua’s visit to Colombia last September, where he pushed for advanced cooperation between the two nations to realize better yields and income for Kenyan coffee farmers. Colombia is one of the largest coffee producers in the world.

On Tuesday, the team held a peer-to-peer session with the Kenyan coffee farmers on growing bushes with higher yields, crop fertilization, harvesting, milling and marketing.

“We are happy to meet the foreign farmers and exchanging ideas on the best practices of coffee farming. We have learnt about good practice of coffee farming. We have learnt about spacing of one square-metre instead of our practice of three square-metre and the best tree varieties that can increase yields,” said Stephen Wabwire, a coffee farmer from Trans Nzoia county.

Another farmer, Samuel Ruiru Macharia from Nyeri, said: “we are grateful for the reforms by the government. We hope we will have money in our pockets.”

Earlier, the delegation toured the New Kenya Planters Coffee Union, Dandora Branch Nairobi, where they were taken through the process of milling, coffee cupping and cataloging.

They are also expected to visit Coffee Research Institute and the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO).

The visit under the ‘Kenya-Colombia Technical Cooperation on Coffee Value Chain’ is organized by the Office of the Deputy President.

One of the visiting delegates, Mr Carlos Armando Uribe, Director of Asuntos Gremiales company based in Colombia, said one channel to increase coffee production in Kenya is for the local farmers to increase the number of trees per hectare.

He also stated that diligence of each farmer is essential so that the combined harvest of the country retains the optimum quality.

“Commitment is also needed and transparency and Government support. Look for new markets like China, India and UAE,” he advised.

The businessman added: “enhance participation of growers in changing the sub-sector through public elections of the sectoral leaders and Coffee democracy.

“We are a coffee producing family. For our colleagues in Kenya, we can move together. The intention is for all of us to get better, and our families get better economically,” he stated.

The trader added that the two countries are looking to partner, collaborate and share ideas to boost the global trade of coffee.

Ms Natalia Una Valencia, a researcher and head of the Colombia delegation, said the trip is intended to help Kenyan farmers increase their production of coffee and sales in the international market.

Receiving the delegation on Monday at Emara Ole Sereni Hotel Nairobi, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Cooperatives and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Development, Simon Chelugui and Colombian Ambassador to Kenya Mr Pedro Leon Rui, welcomed the discussions saying they would boost the ties already nurtured by the two nations.

Mr Chelugui said the government is focused on empowering smallholder coffee farmers since the crop plays a key role in enhancing the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Kenya.

Statistics from the national Coffee Directorate indicate that in the 2022/23 season, Kenya exported 47,861 Metric Tonnes with a corresponding value of Ksh 36.6 billion (USD 251.86 million).

“The Bottom-up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA) envisions a productive coffee subsector hence committed to increase coffee production from the current annual production from 51,000 metric tonnes to 200,000 metric tons by year 2027,” said Mr Chelugui.

He reminisced that in the 1980s, coffee was the leading foreign exchange earner for Kenya. The production, he said, deteriorated from a peak of 130,000 tonnes in 1983/1984 to a low of 34,000 tonnes in 2020. Last year, he said, the harvest was 51,000 metric tonnes.

“Over 70pc of coffee production in our country is carried out by the smallholders, who are organized into cooperatives,” said CS Chelugui.

Ambassador Leon Rui explained that the members of Colombia National Federation of Coffee Growers, are on a five-day visit and they will have a peer-to-peer session with Kenyan farmers.

“This is an important milestone in cementing the relationship between Kenya and Colombia. We have been working together and our ties with Africa are a priority. Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and Cabinet Secretary for Cooperatives and Enterprise Simon Chelugui visited Colombia last year,” he said.

“Connection with Colombia is because we have a lot of potential to work together and learn. Coffee is our treasure; the collaboration is part of other common goals we are building in Kenya”.

The Chief of Staff at the Office of the Deputy President, Ms Wanjiku Wakogi, welcomed the advancement of the talks between the two countries, saying the coffee sub-sector is a strong cornerstone of Kenya’s economic development.

“We are embarking on this wonderful chapter of cooperation between Kenya and Colombia, focused on our coffee value chains. This collaboration is not just a diplomatic gesture; it signifies a strategic partnership aimed at leveraging each other’s strengths for the mutual benefit of our coffee industries,” said Ms Wakogi.

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