Ecological Coffee Cultivation in Rongo

Improve living conditions using permaculture techniques for coffee growing

Project

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Soils around Rongo are fertile and so offer great potential for coffee production. The area is also ideal for sugarcane, tobacco and bananas. Despite that, poverty is widespread. The reasons are the ongoing decline in 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.

Falling coffee prices forced farmers to reduce production and with the promise of a good income from sugarcane they switched to growing sugarcane or gave up farming completely. This left many households in the area without any source of income. The project aims to help coffee farmers achieve long-term improvements in incomes and food security. Using permaculture-based production techniques, it seeks to regenerate the environment and strengthen community resilience.

Coffee farmer on his field in Rongo 2015.

Relevance

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. This integrated “Food Forest” is a functioning ecosystem and combines local traditions and ecological innovation in coffee production. By securing incomes and food supplies and strengthening communities, the project is helping people in Rongo prepare for the effects of climate change.

Beneficiaries

35 coffee farms will be direct beneficiaries of the project. By the end of 2017, a further 75 coffee producers in surrounding regions will have been supplied with information and helped with coffee production. Some 875 people will benefit indirectly from the project. This includes not only the many family members whose living standards will improve as a result of the higher incomes but also others in the local communities who will find work in the plantations or sell the coffee at local markets.

Objectives of current project phase

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.

Achievements

  • Crop yields increased by up to 50 %
  • Quality increased, so opening up opportunities to sell coffee beans in high-end markets 
  • Creation of 5 new companies involved in coffee production and marketing 
  • Monthly income of coffee growers increased 
  • Crop diversification by using permaculture-based techniques such as “mixed copping”
  • Successful training and clear evidence of knowledge being translated into practice

Sustainability

The project supports and empowers the community association SVR and local farmer groups so that they can become independent in the longer term. Working in close cooperation with relevant public organisations, which help to raise awareness, encourage training and exchange information, the project seeks to ensure that progress during the project is maintained after its completion. PRI Kenya is helping local people with organisational development, coordination and administration in order to ensure effective project management. Representations from local government bodies are providing technical support and this will continue after completion of the project.