The coffee industry has been one of the key pillars of Kenya’s economy. As the years have passed, many farmers have shifted from growing coffee to planting other types of crops such as Hass avocadoes, tomatoes and among other profitable crops.
However, many farmers still believe in the profitability of coffee.
A Kiambu based coffee farmer narrates his decisions to start coffee farming came at an unexpected time in his life in 2014 to Farmers TV.
Gitau was at his wits end in his day job as an interior designer and he had just become a father to a bouncing baby girl.
At the time, his farm was majorly populated with the SL28 and SL34 coffee varieties.
“Although both varieties are selected by farmers due to their excellent quality and yields, they are not able to withstand pest and disease infestation,” Gitau said.
This is one of the reasons why Gitau decided to establish Ruiru 11 and Batian varieties. Both varieties ensure high yields and are more resistant to pests and diseases such as coffee berry disease, leaf rust among others.
The flowering of the coffee tree is a sight that Gitau loves to watch. A better view, however, is the pinheads which will later turn to a cherry. Once Gitau sees them, he gets the surety that his crop will do well in the season.
To increase the cherry’s density Gitau told us that one has to be very keen on plant nutrition.
“I apply manure to poor soils, compost newly planted trees and fertilise the mature plants to achieve a high yield,” he added.
Most farmers grapple with intercropping that denies coffee berries all the nutrients they need, but for him, he uses brown earth policy to tackle this.
“I use brown earth policy, rather than intercropping to ensure my coffee get all the necessary nutrients for their healthy growth,” the farmers said.
The brown earth policy aims to promote environmental and economic stability.
Aside from this, Gitau has installed an automatic irrigation system that irrigates his coffee plants from the river. The system is efficient and ensures that each tree gets the water it needs.
The farm clocks harvesting time when the cherries turn from green to a rich red colour.
“During this period, I employ workers daily to selectively pick the ripe cherries leaving the green ones to ripen on the branch,” said Gitau.
Once the coffee has been picked, wet processing begins quickly to prevent spoilage. Afterwards, grading is done. This process can run for several hours after which they will be sun-dried until they attain a moisture level of 11 per cent.
After this, Gitau and his team take the dried beans and put them in sisal bags to ship to a miller. Once milled, Gitau adds value to the coffee by roasting. He does 3 types of roast: Light, Medium and Dark. Afterwards, he packages them in 500 grams and 1 Kilogram bag ready for the market.
When it comes to marketing, Gitau has utilized various market opportunities available. He retails at Greenspoon Kenya, an online retail shop, and conducts coffee tours in his estate for groups and individuals.