Nyeri is an agricultural region, known for its red volcanic soils and some of the coolest average temperatures in Kenya. The Thirikwa Co-op is a large and thriving one. The first coffee trees were planted here in 1953 and the membership continues growing every year. The average farmer in this area has about 300 trees. The farmers in this region are supported by the Gakuyi-ini wet mill and a full time, elected board of 5 and a Secretary Manager. They have big plans to more than double current production.
About Kenyan Coffee
Kenya's coffee history is fairly short. This might seem a little funny considering it's neighbor, Ethiopia, is where the coffee plant was first discovered as long as 1,000 years before cultivation started in Kenya. The year that's most often cited for the introduction of coffee to Kenya is 1893. Some accounts say that coffee was brought from Reunion Island while others say that it was brought back to Africa all the way from Brazil. The coffee industry in Kenya, for Kenyans, was not a very romantic story up until very recently. Kenya was a British colony and only Whites were allowed to own coffee farms while Kenyans were expected to provide free or cheap labor to work the farms. A large scale rebellion against British colonialism called the Mau Mau Uprising did little to relax the oppressive system. Only in the last 20 years did Kenyans finally secure the freedom to own and control the coffee production. One oppressive system led to another unfortunately and up until just the last couple of years the coffee industry was riddled with corruption in its exchange system and violent mafia style rule handed out by armed cartels.
A short and troubled history never stopped Kenya from producing some of the world's best coffee. At one time it was so prized by wealthy Arab rulers that they bought almost 100% of the AA production every year. The soil and environment provide near perfect conditions. Direct trade really only became possible in Kenya very recently. It has been a massive boon for farmers who have suffered under near slave conditions for over 100 years. Before direct trade became a reality, farmers earned as little as 10-20 Schillings per kilo. That's around $0.08usd per pound if you can believe it! Now they're getting 100-120 Schilling per kg and the farmers are thrilled. The situation will continue to improve for farmers in Kenya. Where some countries struggle mightily to produce 87+ point coffees it seems almost easy for Kenya.
Our goal in Kenya is simple. Keep working to improve the system to get more money into the hands of the farmers.