Iburu Coffee - beyond trade
I had just arrived in my village one afternoon in November 2016. As my dad and I were catching up, a message came into his phone. It was from the coffee co-operative notifying him of his payout for the previous season. We both looked to find a miserable 4 dollars!
“I’ll uproot the coffee in a month’s time anyway. I do not see its value anymore.” he told me. I grew up in a coffee producing community at the slopes of Mount Kenya. In particular, the Arabica variety does well in the Kenyan highlands where it is cooler. The soils are volcanic, deep and well drained.
Many farmers applied indigenous farming practices when coffee farming was introduced in my village in 1935. They grew native tree species in their farms which offered habitat and food for many birds. However, they began to remove these shade trees when the coffee economy crashed in the 1980s with the hope of increased yields. As the coffee prices worsened in the 1990s, many of them also uprooted their coffee bushes and continue to do so today
What is at stake?
Our coffee zone lies within Mount Kenya ecosystem which is a biodiversity hotspot. It is an Important Bird Area (IBA) where 53 out of Kenya’s 67 African highland biome bird species and 35 forest specialist species are found. Mount Kenya is also one of Kenyan Mountains Endemic Bird Area (EBA) hosting 7 of the 9 range restricted species. Despite these endowments, traditional coffee farms and birdlife in this area continue to face threats from agricultural expansion and intensification in addition to climate change.
Establishing traditional coffee farms
These traditional coffee farms can be thought of as modified forest habitats. They are often the last shelter for birds among other forest adapted organisms.
The native shade trees also protect the under-story coffee plants from rain and sun, help maintain soil quality, reduce the need for weeding and aid pest control. Birds prey especially on the coffee berry borers, the world’s most serious coffee pest, which has already expanded its geographical range in East Africa’s Arabica growing zones due to global warming.
Shading also preserves quality attributes such as acidity, fruity character and flavor that are typical of coffees produced at cool climates.
Our local engagement
We value and care not only about financial and physical well-being of our farmers but also their mental struggles.
Farmers face a unique set of stressors because farming is an occupation that is largely influenced by factors that are beyond a farmer’s control. They can also be isolated geographically and socially as they tend to work long hard days alone and may not prioritize their own health and well-being to get the job done.
We help them gain or regain motivation and see the purpose of our work by feeling and realizing that what we do is an important part of a bigger vision.
That every step in the procedure is necessary and appreciated-from planting a new coffee seedling to tending and picking its fruitful beans.
Supporting the cottage industry
We harness the magical beauty of the East African ‘Lesso’ also known as ‘Khanga’ to make vibrant bags for your coffee.
The prints and designs are inspired by our rich culture, diversity and nature.
By engaging local tailors we support the cottage industry by creating employment that allows more people to stay and thrive in the countryside.