A four-year coffee productivity project funded by the European Union (EU) through the Kenya Rural Development Programme (KRDP) to promote capacity building in coffee growing counties across Kenya has been launched
The project will also attempt to boost the adoption of improved coffee varieties across the country as well as promote coffee farming in new areas.
"The EU has previously supported the development of research, processing and marketing infrastructure in the sub-sector," said Lodewijk Briet, head of the EU Delegation in Kenya. "This project will enhance access to quality coffee planting materials through greater involvement by the private sector."
The project will be implemented by the Coffee Research Foundation (CRF) based in Ruiru, on the outskirts of Kenyan capital Nairobi.
Dr Elijah Gichuru, acting director of research at CRF, remarked, "Over the four-year period, the project will increase capacity at CRF and partner organisations in the provision of quality coffee planting material. This will lead to increased coffee production, household incomes and reduction in rural poverty."
Over the past two years, the foundation has been promoting the planting of two new varieties – Batian and Ruiru 11. The two varieties are resistant to two main coffee diseases – coffee leaf rust and coffee berry disease (CBD).
Currently, coffee supports about 700,000 smallholder growers and up to 4000 small and medium estate growers. Recent trends indicate an increase in demand for good quality coffees, with interest increasing in coffee farming in non-traditional coffee growing areas and advancements made in research technologies.
Kenya's coffee production in 2013/14 is expected to marginally decline to 44,000 metric tonnes compared to 49,000 metric tonnes in 2012/13.
According to agriculture cabinet secretary Felix Koskei, the coffee sub-sector is set to earn US$217mn –comparatively lower than that earned within the tea and horticulture sectors, which together generate more than US$900 million.
"The country needs to unlock the full potential of coffee as a cash crop through the implementation of policies that transform the industry," Koskei said.