Narok County is renowned for its production of wheat, maize, and potatoes. However, a growing number of farmers in the area are shifting their focus from maize to coffee production, and one such farmer is Joseph Soi.
Soi, who has been cultivating coffee for over five years, calls the village of Olemekenyu in the Narok South Constituency of Narok County his home. He currently serves as the Vice-Chairman of the Baraka Narok South Coffee Cooperative Society, a group with over 120 members, all dedicated to coffee cultivation.
“We established this cooperative in 2014, and we have been growing coffee ever since. We set up the nursery in 2014 and started planting in 2015. I began with half an acre, then expanded to one acre, and now I have three acres,” says Soi, aged 52.
Soi harvests coffee on two acres of his land, and the coffee trees he planted a few months ago are expected to yield their first harvest in May.
“It takes about one and a half years from planting for the coffee to start being harvested. After two years, it yields a significant quantity,” he explains, emphasizing that as the coffee plants grow, the yield increases.
At present, Soi harvests approximately 5 to 7 kilograms of coffee from a single tree each season.
“I harvest every two weeks, and the total yield ranges from 1,400 to 1,600 kilograms. The coffee trees start flowering in February and are harvested in August,” he reveals. He adds that he typically collects coffee for four consecutive months.
Soi employs natural fertilizer, specifically cow dung, when planting his coffee seedlings. After planting, he ensures regular weeding to keep the fields clear of weeds. After six months, he switches to using CAN (Calcium Ammonium Nitrate) fertilizer for his coffee trees.
“I use 50 grams of CAN, and once the trees have grown and started bearing coffee, I apply 100 grams of CAN,” says Soi, who cultivates the Batian coffee variety.
He notes that well-maintained coffee trees are less susceptible to diseases. “We were recently trained to apply various types of sprays over six months. These include insecticides, fungicides, and growth enhancers,” he says.
Once the farmers harvest their coffee, cooperative officials collect and weigh the coffee every two months before selling it to purchasing companies.
Soi says that they sell their coffee to CMS – Coffee Millers Society, located in Eldoret.
He admits that the price of coffee can fluctuate, ranging from Ksh 490 per kilogram to as low as Ksh 270 per kilogram, depending on the season.
However, there are several challenges in coffee farming. High input costs, such as fertilizers and pesticides, pose a significant obstacle.
Additionally, the farmers lack proper coffee processing machinery. Soi, for instance, purchased a coffee pulping machine for Ksh 40,000, which can process approximately 1,000 kilograms of coffee cherries per day.