Feb. 24, 2011
Kenya, Meru region
Visit to Riankune Cooperative (and factory), 1400m (5250 ft), East side of Mt. Kenya, Kienganguru District (near Chogoria)
Temp range: 16-20°C
Members: 360, each with 50 - 1000 coffee trees, harvesting ~130-150kg ea.
2010 production: 128,778 kg
Main harvest period: March-June
Types: 4 types of arabica: K7, SL28, SL34 and some Ruiru 11
Shade: 50% of acreage protected by shade
Andrew Kandia, marketing services agent with SMS, and I arrived about 9:30. First we met the vice-chairman of the society, Ephraiim Nkonge and Edafas Kenegen, the assistant manager. Soon Festus Kariuki, the factory manager, also arrived.
Together we looked at their nursery stock, obeserving how they are grafting SL28 to an SL34 base to create Ruiru11 saplings. Ruiru11 has proven to be more productive than SL28, but somewhat more susceptible to drought.
As we walked up the hill to visit one of the farms, we met the Chairman of the society, Burini Ntaari. This tall, gentleman with glasses and a red sun hat welcomed us with a broad smile. I wish I knew more than my few words of Swahili because Mr. Ntaari did not speak English. He is 90 years old and still ably walked up and down the hills and through the trees with us the whole way. We arrived at the farm of Mr. Ntaari's brother, M'rucha Ntaari. We also met M'rucha's wife, son and his cows and goats. All seemed very happy and comfortable. Their farm grows many other crops and vegetables besides coffee, so it appears they have a diversified income.
Meeting the governing committee:
After touring the farm and the washing station, we met in the chairman's office with the 5 member cooperative board. Each person on the board represents a geographic region and therefore a certain number of farmers. We discussed the coffee Artisan Coffee Imports (my company) had purchased from the cooperative. The Vice-Chairman knew the price paid at the auction and exactly how many bags (it was a 44 bag microlot). The auction price (of $3.46/lb.) was a helpful discussion point to share how the value chain works after the auction. I gave the chairman 3 bags of roasted coffee from my customers, Metropolis and Mighty Good Coffee, and shared how at that point, the coffee is selling for $17-$19/lb. This insight got many interested looks and exclamations among the committee members.
Chairman Ntaari thanked me for the visit, (and the token gift of a Michigan cap), and said he would show the coffee bags to the other farmers to inspire their efforts to produce high quality coffee.