Ecological Coffee Cultivation in Rongo

Improve living conditions using permaculture techniques for coffee growing

-> Latest project news in Biovision Newsletter No. 43

The project is located in Rongo in Migori County, South Western Kenya. The area benefits from good rainfall with two seasons of rain and temperatures ranging between 21 and 35°C. It has fertile arable land with great potential for producing a variety of cash crops such as coffee, sugarcane, tobacco, bananas and horticultural crops such as groundnuts and vegetables. However, Migori County has a high poverty level and the population is saddled with high HIV/AIDS infection rates. Additional factors are decreasing soil fertility, little knowledge of agronomic practices, lack of capital, postharvest challenges, poor market access, gender imbalances and climate change increasing the vulnerability of farmers greatly.

In addition, falling coffee prices forced producers to reduce production and with promises of good income from sugarcane, the farmers abandoned coffee production for the introduction of sugarcane. However, sugarcane farmers also suffered due to volatile sugar markets, low prices and unpaid supply to sugar processing factories, forcing many farmers to abandoned farming all together. This left many households in the area without any source of income.

Coffee farmer on his field in Rongo 2015.

Project Goals

Improve income, food security and nutrition of coffee farmers and ensure environmental regeneration and community resilience through permaculture-based production techniques.

Relevance

The purpose of the project is to reactivate, intensify and optimize organic production of coffee and development of ecological regenerative enterprises through application of permaculture techniques that promote sustainable livelihoods and a healthy environment, provide farmers with a steady income and contribute towards project sustainability.

The project will support farmers in establishing and sustaining a more efficient and financially rewarding organic coffee production that leads to long term profitability, operates in harmony with the environment while taking social aspects into consideration. This project will provide support to a permaculture based organic shade-grown coffee that is diversified with food crops in a food-forest system that helps sustain the health of soil, living ecosystem and people. The low cost production technology used combines local tradition, innovation and ecological regenerative science in coffee farming. This benefits the shared environment, improves the resilience of local communities and thus improves quality of life for all actors involved in the production system in line with our permaculture ethics and the 4-H holistic approach of Biovision Foundation.

This project is part of the programme of the Permaculture Research Institute Kenya (PRI Kenya) to develop a viable model for resource-efficient ecological farming. During the current phase of implementation with funding from SLush Fund US (Lush is an international chain of shops for sustainable products and supports sustainable projects) and Biovision Foundation, 35 coffee farmers from Rongo Coffee Farmers Association are provided with coffee seedlings, farm tools, trainings and installation of basic coffee processing infrastructure on a demonstration site.

Beneficiaries

35 coffee farms will be direct beneficiaries of the project. In addition, 175 households or 875 people with direct links to these farms will also benefit. Another 3’900 people from different farmer groups in the region will also benefit indirectly from better processing and marketing opportunities established in the region.

Project Goals and Activities 2016 - 2017

The aim of this project is to increase farmers’ adoption of sustainable agricultural practices and application of permaculture principles for sustainable coffee production. This permaculture approach improves productivity and quality of coffee plantations and increases farmers’ income and food security by diversifying farm produce and establishing a functional ecological enterprise.

The farmers are trained and supported in intercropping organic coffee with suited crop varieties such as bananas and other annuals to make an integrated system that provides nutritive food and diversify their source of income. This system contributes to building sustainability by provision of mutually beneficial ecological services to the production system; shade and mulch, nutrient cycling, nitrogen fixing, wind breakers, better quality yields and fodder.

Salina Ngere, coffee quality expert demonstrates how to hand-roast and grind coffee.
Permaculture-based production improves coffee yields and thus improves income, helps regenerate the environment and strengthens community resilience.

The project further supports farmers in climate change adaptation by promoting good agricultural practices that reduces soil erosion and increases water retention, restore fertile soil, and maximize outputs from diverse cropping. The farmers will also be trained and supported in certification of organic produce. Establishing internal quality assurance and standard control systems are an integral part of the process. Strengthening of the farmers’ cooperative will be another effect to ensure that the farmers combine their resources and help each other in sustaining the practices.

The project also aims at increasing market-oriented production and improving farmers’ skills on value addition for organic produce. Therefore, market linkages will be established with organic product selling points for farmers to be able to trade their produce. Market opportunities for higher-value processed organic coffee are growing in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa, with weekly organic markets. The higher prices for organic produce will offer the farmers increased incentives to intensify organic production and management of the environment. In addition, PRI-Kenya is trying to win over the Kenyan firm Dormans Coffee to market Rongo organic coffee.