Kenya had a reputation for producing quality coffee beans, but the country is now struggling to meet the demands as production levels have dropped due to younger generations lack of interest in farming.
“The German school in Nairobi, when I was there in 1980, ’82, when I went to school there, we were surrounded by coffee fields,” said Stefan Canz with Nestle’s Nescafe Plan in Kenya. “We were doing sports competitions around there in the coffee field. And, now there’s a shopping mall, there’s houses, there’s everything. So, you have to go really up country to find now the next coffee trees.”
Over the years Kenya’s coffee production is becoming volatile because fewer of Kenya’s younger generation stayed on the farm. Most of the younger generations today choose education over farming, and modernization took over the country that is why younger generations now prefer white collar jobs than farming.
“After independence, what happened is people were looking for more white collar jobs rather than the farm,” said Peter Kimata, deputy general manager for Coffee Management Services. “The farm was seen to be like a peasant kind of affair. It was seen to be a poor man’s business.”
Coffee farmer Martin Mureithi Alexander wants his children to continue working the family farm. But, he admits their education could take them elsewhere.
“The government may employ them with the time,” he said. “But at this time, they are working on my coffee farm.”
According to Kimata, Kenya’s coffee production is slowly rising since 2014, and improving productivity is key to showing Kenyan youth that coffee farming can be profitable.
“Moving the trees from producing two kilos, from producing one and a half kilos, moving them to five kilos, moving them to seven kilos, moving them to fifteen kilos,” he said. “Moving them to that kilos whereby now, with high productivity, there is better return on investment.”
Farmers training and disease-resistant coffee trees are helping the farmers, but better implementation and additional farmers are needed to better shape up the coffee production in Kenya or else they will face a bigger coffee crisis and ends losing into bigger producers.
“Countries like China or Vietnam can serve as inspiration, that people see that it’s possible,” said Nestle’s Stefan Canz. “And then you have to find the African way, the Kenyan way, or the Côte d’Ivoire way, to move towards that.”
There is a gold mine in coffee farming but if the younger generations and future generations are not willing to continue their heritage the question is what will happen in the future of the coffee industry?Will it thrive or will forever wither?
Source: VOA News