Uasin Gishu County is popular in maize farming, with vast lands being farmed and most of the proceeds used commercially and some percentage going to domestic consumption.
A section of the North Rift Region farmers has ventured into coffee farming, a change from maize farming, anticipating reaping big from the crop.
One of them is Richard Tinga, a coffee farmer from Uasin Gishu county and a member of Kipsamo Cooperatives.
He planted his 700 coffee seedlings in 2018 and started harvesting in 2021, although, at first, it was meager.
Early this year, he took some of his coffee harvests to the factory at the Rupas Mall in Eldoret, where it was graded as 1st grade.
“Through the exchange programs by the New Kenya Planters Cooperative Union (NKPCU), we have learned that the variety of the coffee we plant is of great quality and value,” he said.
Simon Sitienei, another coffee farmer, asked all farmers in areas suitable for coffee plantations to venture into it, for it is very lucrative farming.
He noted that farmers should continue planting high-value crops and also asked farmers to join cooperatives.
Like any other farming practice, coffee farming has challenges, including the unavailability of fair-priced fertilizers.
Exorbitantly high pesticide costs also make coffee farming a little bit cumbersome, yet the farmers are still pioneering coffee farming in the county.
“We are requesting our county government to use any formulas available for issuance of subsidized farm produce to our coffee farmers, the same case which has been used for maize farmers,” said Sitienei.
He also noted that water unavailability has been a challenge due to unpredictable seasons occasioned by climate change, making coffee ventures challenging.
However, all is not lost; boreholes, once established, will save the situation.
While comparing maize farming in terms of expenses to coffee farming, the farmers said that coffee farmers do not incur many costs.
In one acre of coffee plantation, 100kgs of fertilizer are very effective and productive for top dressing, and the work will have been sorted a lot and adversely.
The coffee farmers called for intergovernmental indulgence to improve coffee production in the region, arguing that the government is a key stakeholder in the agricultural sector and plays a pivotal role in improving the sector.
“While coffee only requires some maintenance, not so same with the maize, which has so many costs and dwindling market prices from time to time,” added Sitienei.
The farmers are calling on the government to establish a coffee factory in their vicinity to ease the transport cost.
Easy access to the factory will enable many farmers to embrace coffee farming in the county and even in the country.
Cecilia Keiyo started coffee farming in 2018, and she is among the pioneer coffee farmers in the area.
She was encouraged by the then deputy president and now president, Dr. William Ruto, who had asked farmers not to solely depend on maize in the region but also to plant other cash crops.
Alexander Arusei, a 60-year-old, narrates that he has been practicing maize farming for over 20 years and opted to diversify for coffee after its market dwindled.
He has planted 300 coffee plants which have picked up and are doing well.
From October to April, water scarcity due to drought poses a challenge.
“I’m asking the government to aid in the provision of water to solidify the crop fertilizers; the crop needs several fertilizers for nourishment, and the government should avail them through the cooperatives,” said Arusei.
In efforts to promote crop production, both the county and national governments have rolled up raft measures, including continuous engagements in farmers’ training through cooperatives and offering loans to boost them financially in their farming endeavors.
New Kenya Planters Cooperative Union interventions
Moses Wanduasi, officer in charge of the New Kenya Planters Cooperative Union (NKPCU) North Rift Region, noted that most farmers in the region do not know the coffee milling process.
They should be incorporated into the same to understand the process better.
“We are educating farmers on grading and the charges involved. Every farmer is involved in the process,” said Wanduasi.
About 800 farmers have been trained in Uasin Gishu, whereas similar training has been happening in other North Rift counties such as Trans-Nzoia, with 2000 farmers trained, Elgeiyo Marakwet 800, Baringo 200, and Bungoma 3000.
“Uasin Gishu has not been a coffee growing zone. It is a new market entrant, which is the reason behind the extensive training for better crop production. We are very impressed with the zeal in farmers for this lucrative crop,” said Wanduasi.
He revealed that the county government of Uasin Gishu is promoting coffee so that production can increase, and the training aims at giving transparency on the coffee processing processes.
According to Sheilah Wamboi, the officer in charge of the Coffee Revolving Fund, KSh3 billion has been set aside for all coffee farmers to provide affordable credit due to the delays experienced from when farmers pick their coffee to the time that they get their proceeds.
She said its affordability is why the zero-interest funds are offered.
The funds have greatly helped farmers.
According to her, Uasin Gishu has the potential for a great breakthrough in coffee farming.
“In Uasin Gishu county, we have currently disbursed Ksh.200,000 to the farmers and now that they have been trained and enlightened, I am very sure that the uptake of funds will rise.
The funds are available to small-scale farmers, accessible through cooperative societies and also individually,” said Wamboi.
To date, approximately 600 million shillings have been disbursed across the country.
It is fast increasing compared to the previous years when the Covid-19 pandemic had destabilized the country and no farmer’s meeting could be conducted.
The Uasin Gishu County government, through the Department of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, has advised farmers to diversify and do high-value crops, including coffee, macadamia, and avocado.
According to the County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for the County Government of Uasin Gishu, Mr. Edward Sawe, a total of around 1000 farmers have ventured into coffee farming, with a plantation of about 1,300,000 seedlings in the county.
Of these, 850,000 are seedlings the County Government of Uasin Gishu issued to the farmers.
“As the county government of Uasin Gishu, this year we are expecting 120,000 kilos of clean coffee to be marketed, anticipated to attract a value of 60 million depending on the Nairobi Exchange Market,” said Mr. Sawe.