Kenya is a leading global exporter of premium Arabica coffee. The coffee industry remains a very crucial sector to the Kenyan economy, it is the fourth foreign exchange earner after tourism, tea and horticulture. In the coffee growing belt (south of Mt. Kenya to parts of Machakos county; the western Kenya) coffee assures livelihood of about sixty percent of the rural population. Most coffee is cultivated on smallholder farms and the producers earn by quantities and quality produced. This makes most farmers strive to maintain high quality and high yielding trees for better returns.
In Kang’undo, Machakos county farmers have grown coffee since early 1950s and it has been a reliable cash crop until recently where the dream crop seems to dwindle. The variety of coffee which was introduced here is SL (Scottish Laboratories) variety and has remained as the main variety adopted by farmers. The SL variety is highly adaptable to the climatic conditions in Kang’undo and that is why it has remained predominant despite its vulnerability to Coffee berry disease and coffee leaf rust fungal
disease. Management of the SL is highly dependent on continuous fungal disease control.
With climate change, there has been increased incidences of pests on this variety. The Smallholder coffee farmers bear the burden of tendering the crop which is further complicated by unpredictable coffee prices. Farming in Kenya is largely rain fed agriculture with the rainfall pattern in Kang’undo defined as mid-March to end May and mid-October to end December. However the rains are no longer predictable in the wake of climate change.
Stakeholders in the coffee sector employ various means and methods to sensitize farmers on the impacts of climate change. The Sustainable Management Services (SMS) Limited is one of the partners working with coffee farmers through targeted capacity building on climate change through projects. SMS ltd is a licensed coffee management agent, offering extension and education services based on good agricultural practices to coffee farmers. One such project that is being implemented is Sustainable and secure smallholder systems @ scale (4s@scale) where its main pillars comprises of: Good agricultural practices training of farmers to achieve better production volumes and of good quality; Women and Youth support- incorporation and active participation to coffee production and management; Credit & Input extension to societies to aid farmers access the required inputs as well as support them to increase their capacities in coffee farming and in the acquisition of new technologies like bio-digester installations; Income diversification through dairy enterprises to increase income at farm level; Biodigester promotion and installation- where the biodigester technology is promoted for bioslurry and biogas. The gas promoted for clean cooking while bioslurry as organic fertilizer and soil nourisher for the coffee trees. Bioslurry application is becoming a household name among coffee producers since the application has started bearing fruits on some farms. It is with this in mind that SMS is promoting and supporting farmers install biodigesters.
Mr. Raphael Itumo is a member of the Muisuni Farmers’ cooperative society (FCS), he is retired civil servant and had been preoccupied in formal employment while his coffee farm registered low production. Raphael had been trying to revive his coffee farm enterprise by the time the 4S@Scale project team visited his cooperative. The costs of reviving his crop were high and he decided to invest in the biodigester instead and hope that bioslurry would meet his expectation.
Raphael installed a fixed dome digester size 8M3 in 2015. He says he was more interested in biogas but slurry has exceeded his expectations. After being trained on bioslurry utilization and management, he started applying the slurry to the coffee farm. Through extension support from SMS he embarked on rehabilitating his coffee bushes. This is the first phase of rehabilitation and in the next two years he expects to reap high volumes of coffee which is of good quality that will fetch better prices in the market. He is happy with the plant vigor and general state of his farms. SMS has set up his farm as a demonstration farm for slurry and he loves sharing the story with other farmers delivering coffee to Muisuni FCS so that their coffee can be of uniform quality for them to fetch better prices. Raphael benefited from the Muisuni biodigester marketing Hub where the society acquired loans from SMS to buy dairy cows as well install biogas units. He currently has 3 dairy cows producing 60 litres of milk daily. He has sufficient fodder from using slurry and plans to sell the surplus.
At the Kilalani FCS, Mr. Alex Kimondio acquired the biodigester in 2015 and has been using gas and applies the slurry to the vegetable garden close to homestead and composting the slurry for use in his coffee farm. After training on bioslurry application he is in the process of changing cycle of the old coffee trees in order to reap good crop in the next two years.
Mr. Alex Kimondio a kilalani farmer
Mr Alex explaining his plans of canopy (change of cycle) management to Mr. Daniel a KBP technical staff
Mr. Kimondio owns 225 coffee trees and resides in Mulingana zone. Last year he managed to harvest 610 kgs of coffee from his farm yet his previous harvest he realized 490kg. He attributes the slight improvement in production of 0.5kg per tree to use of slurry and he foresees his production doubling in the current season and ‘who knows it may triple in future’, says Alex. Alex has plans to engage an employee to support in the application of the slurry from the collection point to the farm because of the distance. He is also very willing to train other farmers and give them access to his farm to learn on several technologies he is applying in his farm.