Coffee is one of the major export earners crop in Kenya coming third after horticulture and tea. It’s estimated that more than 700 small and medium scale farmers engage in coffee farming business as one of their main income earning activities. The crop provides livelihood directly or indirectly to about 5 million people considering its forward and backward linkages.
Despite higher insatiable world demand for Kenyan coffee, most of the small and medium scale coffee farmers are yet to reap the benefit of their hard work due to low prices for their coffee produces. Low volumes and poor quality coffee are among the causes of poor payments, hence low income for coffee farmers in Kenya. According to coffee experts, farmers can only enjoy the proceeds of coffee business if they are able to produce high volumes of good quality coffee. This requires the farmer to observe good agricultural practices in the production and processing stages as well as a favourable climate for coffee production among other factors.
Of importance to a farmer is adhering to good agricultural practice a variable factor for the coffee farmer. However, this comes with a high cost of production for most of the small and medium scale farmers considering that coffee places high demand for soil nutrients. In fact, exhaustion of soil nutrients and the need to regularly replenish the nutrient is among the biggest production challenge facing small scale farmers. Even where farmers can afford the inputs, the higher prices for the inputs significantly reduce their profit margins. In addition, climatic change often signified by inadequate and unreliable rainfall results to low quantity and quality of coffee. Chemical control of pests and diseases further inflates the production cost of coffee, rendering the farming business futile.
Interestingly, a sustainable solution for most of the production challenges facing the small scale coffee farmer are just within their farm. One of these solutions is a biodigester technology commonly referred to as a biogas system. This technology utilizes available biomass waste within the farm to provide the farmer with bioslurry a superior organic fertilizer and biogas. According to a study conducted by Warnars and Oppenoorth (2014) on bioslurry application and results in various crops, the results indicated that bioslurry contains both the macro and micro nutrients required by most crops for good performance.
The study results also indicated that the effects of bioslurry application in various crops could be compared to the effects of applying chemical fertilizer on the same crop implying that bioslurry can effectively substitute the use of chemical fertilizers. Further, the use of bioslurry in coffee increased the yield by 30% and reduced the fertilizer application cost by 50%. This indicates that bioslurry has the power to solve the coffee tree feeding challenge and significantly reduce production cost to the coffee farmer.
In addition, a practical, non-scientific finding from coffee farmers using bioslurry in Kenya indicates that bioslurry is an effective repellant for many coffee pests and improves the resistant of coffee tree against some coffee diseases. On the other hand the trapped biogas helps to mitigate the effect of climate change by reducing the volume of greenhouse gas emission while being used as an alternative cheap source of clean energy. This results in saving fuel costs and less time used in cooking resources that can be directed to other productive activities. Therefore, a biodigester is unarguably one of the most available and sustainable solution for a coffee farmer to run a sustainable profitable agribusiness venture.