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Kenya: Coffee Industry Bouncing Back to its ‘Black Gold’ Status

Dr Romano M. Kiome

Kenya’s coffee industry which was dubbed as the ‘black gold’ in the 1980s to ’90s is bouncing back with its 7,000 small scale farmers and 3,000 large scale farmers earning averagely $ 1.35 per kilo gramme, the permanent secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Romano Kiome has said.

Dr Kiome who was speaking during a luncheon to celebrate the award of International Organization of Standards (ISO) 9001: 2008 certificate to Coffee Development Fund (CoDF) said, “Given that the price of coffee in the internal market is high, and the trend for such improved pricing is expected to continue for a considerable time in future.”

The certification reinforces seven key areas that are fundamental in the institutional management of Kenyan parastatals and other public institutions, which include: audit, expenditure control, staff morale, asset management, innovativeness, responses and corporate service.

The coffee industry is experiencing an increased income from the coffee produce for the farmers which has generated new wave of confidence in the coffee sector whereby even young people are joining as a source of income.

The permanent secretary said the future of the coffee industry, as laid down in the strategic plan, is a full recovery – to its annual potential of 100,000 Metric tonnes to contribute to additional 1 to 2 percent points to the growth of the economy.

He is confident that the target is achievable for the sector to contribute 6.5 percent instead of 4.5 percent of the growth of the national gross domestic product (GDP).

The Government’s allocation of $ 22.47 million during this year’s budget will go along way to write off debts of coffee growers they owe to cooperative unions and savings and credit societies (SACCOs) giving them a new leaf of operation.

With ISO 9001: 2008 certification, customer satisfaction and effective management is expected to be scaled up. Thus, “CoDF will be expected to contribute even more through the provision of innovative, sustainable and affordable credit facilities to coffee farmers,” said the Permanent Secretary who did his PhD research in modelling crop production under various soil and water management.

Since 2007, the Fund has advanced over Sh 1 billion to over 60 thousand small scale coffee and estate farmers across the country.

Dr Kiome said:

“The achievement is an indication of the Fund’s competence, in rendering services that match internationally accepted quality standards. The ministry of agriculture is currently implementing a 10 year strategy for revitalizing agriculture that commenced in 2004.”

The strategy amplifies the government’s commitment in the development of the coffee sector, among other commodities. One of the strategy’s key innovations was the creation of the CoDF.

The strategy is also targeting improved access to financial services and credit to all farmers. The ministry of agriculture points out that the operations of the CoDF and other like-minded institutions, is key in achieving the target.

The multiplier effect of the related economic activity are expected to further fuel economic growth and contribute towards Vision 2030 of a rapidly growing economy.

The chairman, board of trustees, CoDF, Professor Zablon Nthamburi, said, CoDF being a service organization, the Fund appreciates the dynamism of customer needs and the need to keep up with their unique characteristics while matching them with world standards.

The Fund launched four new products in 2010/2011, Prof Nthamburi said, enumerating:

  1. coffee establishment loan,
  2. coffee machinery loan,
  3. coffee processing loan,
  4. cherry advance

– in addition to the already existing credit products, in order to make a documented commitment to stakeholders at the level of service they can expect from the Fund.

Professor Zablon Nthamburi, said:

“To measure our performance against this ideal, the Fund undertakes a periodic Customer Satisfaction Survey as well as providing a number of alternative channels for customer feedback. However, achieving a high quality of customer service is not enough; the Fund is also committed to continually improving the system in order to exceed stakeholders’ expectations.”

The Managing Trustee, CoDF, George Ooko, said certification began in February 2009 with a desire to ensure that the Fund’s quality management system was fulfilling the aspirations of the coffee farmers, partners and stakeholders, while meeting international standards.

Mr Ooko explained:

“With the ISO 9001: 2008 certification by the Bureau Veritas Kenya in February 2011 the Fund has been straightened to provide accessible, affordable credit and financial solutions to the coffee sector in Kenya, through continued pursuit of excellence in service delivery.”

Through the certification, he said the members of the staff of the Fund are more motivated and committed because they are now directly involved in the Quality Management System.

He further said that there will be regular monitoring of the system through scheduled audit programs to provide factual information for decisions making and to be able to prevent deviation from the standards before they occur.

About Robert Okemwa Onsare

Robert Okemwa Onsare
Robert Onsare is pursuing Electronics Technology at the University of Eastern Africa, Baraton. He is a Cluster Strategy trained facilitator by Kenya's National Economic and Social Council (NESC). Mr Onsare has been an incubation student at the University of Nairobi, School of Engineering, FabLab, a venture project of the university and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is a member of the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) and a published poet. Mr Onsare is based in Kenya.

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