Home NEWS Local News Farmers welcome Kenya-Colombia partnership to boost coffee reforms 

Farmers welcome Kenya-Colombia partnership to boost coffee reforms 

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua

Coffee farmers have welcomed the government’s move to scale up reforms and development in the sub-sector through a knowledge-sharing programme with their colleagues from Colombia, one of the leading top producers of coffee globally.

The farmers, together with members of the visiting Colombia National Federation of Coffee Growers, on Wednesday toured the Coffee Research Institute (CRI) in Ruiru, Kiambu county, for a day-long familiarisation visit on farming practices for the crop.

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“The joint training will benefit local farmers in their work. We urge the government to sustain the reforms because, soon, production will increase and farmers will get money in their pockets fostering the rural economy. In the one year the reforms have been ongoing, the sub-sector has changed positively. We are supporting the government in that exercise to restore coffee as a source of livelihood for rural families,” said Mr Francis Ngone, the chairperson of the National Coffee Cooperative Federation of Kenya.

During the tour at KALRO-CRI, the teams were trained on the research process, coffee propagation, selection for coffee berry disease resistance varieties, varietal conversion, coffee establishment (land preparation and field planting), management of coffee canopy and soil fertility management.

They were also taught about identification and management of coffee diseases, pests and the insects’ management practices.

On the Kenya-Colombia partnership in the coffee value chain, Mr Ngone said: “Colombia has a coffee growing model which we should adopt. Kenyan farmers visited Colombia last year and learnt from them.”

Commending Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua over his leadership in the coffee sub-sector reforms agenda, he urged farmers to be patient since the government wants to restore the agricultural sector as a major source of livelihood.

The farmers called for closer collaboration between coffee researchers in Kenya and Colombia.

“Farmers’ aspiration is that the Coffee Research Institute (CRI) is revived fully and funded to execute its duty in research,” Mr John Mutwiri said.

The peer-to-peer learning is a follow-up of the Deputy President’s visit to Colombia last September, where he pushed for advanced cooperation between the two nations to boost yields and income for Kenyan coffee farmers.

Mr Hector Santos Galvis, a board member of Colombia National Federation of Coffee Growers and director of the organisation’s affairs, said Kenya and Colombia farmers share various farming practices and collaboration can lead to increased production of coffee beans.

“To scientists and researchers at the Coffee Research Institute and farmers, we can do much together to address coffee diseases, climate change, use new technologies and genetic trapping. We share a lot. Like you, in Colombia we have three harvesting seasons depending on the rain patterns,” said Mr Galvis.

“We came here to learn from you and share knowledge,” he stated.

Citing similarities between farmers of the two nations, he said ‘coffee is a crop of smallholder farmers and middle families”.

“We need to be diligent in separating the high and optimum quality from the low grade. We also need quality machines for grading, milling and processing. We need to reduce harvest losses, control pests and diseases. Most of the varieties in Colombia are disease resistant. We should build quality together,” he added.

Director-General of Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KARLO), Prof Dr Eliud Kiplimo Kireger, said Kenya Coffee industry is faced by a number of challenges, such as climate change, price volatility and high cost of production, among others.

“We are addressing these challenges through research by developing appropriate technologies and recommendations to mitigate. This forum enables us to review and cross-match our activities to those of a peer country – Colombia. Indeed, Kenya and Colombia share a lot in the coffee industry including approach to research, which makes collaboration between the two countries desirable,” said Dr Kireger.

In a speech read on his behalf by Dr Zachary Kinyua, a director at KALRO, Dr Kireger said that to combat coffee diseases in Kenya, researchers at KARLO have developed and released two disease-resistant varieties, namely Ruiru 11 and Batian, as a way of reducing the costs of production.

He added KALRO is promoting coffee growing in new areas for coffee farming including refocusing on Robusta Coffee, which has a large potential in the Lake Victoria basin and the coastal region.

“Some of the upcoming coffee expansion zones are steep areas such as the escarpments of the Rift Valley; coffee production systems practised in Colombia may be adopted as we explore new areas for coffee production,” said Dr Kireger.

Further, Dr Kireger called for continued support of research in order to continuously improve the coffee varieties coupled with improvement of the best agricultural and manufacturing practices.

This, he stated, will enable the industry to get better results in terms of increased production and quality.

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