15 smallholder farmers organized around Mukaro Coffee Growers
1700 – 1750 masl
SL-28, SL-34, Ruiru-11, Batian
Gatitu town, Nyeri county, Kenya
Full natural and dried on raised beds
Mukaro Coffee Growers is, for Kenya, a tiny growers’ association, with only 15 members compared to hundreds or thousands typical to Nyeri producer groups. It is also practically brand new, having only formed in 2021. Mukaro is the result of a longtime effort by certain growers formerly affiliated with the Tetu Coffee Growers Cooperative. For years the growers sought start-up funds to acquire land for a central processing facility—which in Kenya implies a wet mill, for producing fully-washed coffee—all while delivering cherry to their local Tetu cooperatives. It wasn’t until 2021, when the farmers received a critical training in natural processing, that they realized their dream of independence was closer than they thought. The farmers immediately set up cherry drying tables on their individual plots, and this is one of their first viable exports as a newly-formed society. East Africa’s specialty coffee is largely defined by central processing systems and the efficiencies that they provide global markets. Mukaro Coffee Growers, however, thanks to their choice to process naturals, are doing things quite differently. Each of the 15 contributing growers sun-dries their cherry at home on their own farm, for 22-28 days, and then delivers their individual outturns to the local dry mill. At the mill, each farmer’s coffee is cupped and evaluated separately from the others for quality and consistency. After being evaluated, individual coffees are bulked together to create final lots for milling and export. The average farm size of Mukaro’s members is less than a single hectare; so, these are highly specific coffees made from extremely small contributors. Mukaro Coffee Growers is one of the smallest and newest grower societies to be part of the Kenya Cooperative Coffee Exporters (KCCE) organization. KCCE is an historic organization of almost 4,000 individual cooperatives. The group was formed in 2009, with the express goal of managing marketing and exporting operations cooperatively, as opposed to contractually with third parties. The economics of smallholder systems are consistently difficult everywhere in the world, and in Kenya in particular the number of individual margins sliced off an export price before payment reaches the actual farms is many, leaving only a small percentage to support coffee growth itself. And most often this arrives many months after harvest. KCCE, by managing more of the value chain itself, can capture a greater margin on behalf of the farms. Mukaro’s natural, which, although small, represents a huge outlier to Kenya’s status quo, is one example of farmer support and direct representation facilitated by KCCE.