Situated on the eastern coast of Africa lies the country of Kenya. Within this country, about 151 kilometers north of Nairobi is the county of Nyeri. Here, in the high altitude red volcanic foothills of Mt. Kenya (1789 masl) is where David Maguta Ngibuini runs his 4 acre coffee operation, Maguta Coffee Estate.
As a child, David grew up tending coffee plants that were planted by his father in the late 1980s on his family’s estate. At the time, coffee was a profitable business and David had the privilege of obtaining an education due to the profits gained from successful coffee harvests. As time went on, David completed his education and took a job as a marketing manager for popular fashion retailer in Nairobi. Unfortunately, at the time, coffee was also experiencing a serious decline in Kenya. David’s mother expressed frustration with the coffee industry after having frequently received low or delayed payments for the rather laborious farming and milling process. David’s mother hinted at uprooting all of the Ruiru 11 arabica coffee varietals and planting a more profitable cash crop. However David, being the only son, refused to give and left his job in Nairobi to help his mother and pursue the coffee agribusiness.
David decided that instead of uprooting the coffee plants, he would find a way to add value to his family’s coffee operation and set out to visit over 30 private coffee estates in the Central province in search of valuable agricultural processes that could make his family’s estate more viable. Unfortunately, David found that over half of these private estates were on the verge of, or had already closed down. Upon further investigation though, David found that private estate farmers were not as diligent and meticulous when it came to the harvesting, washing, and drying processes. This created a low quality coffee that required large quantities to produce a profit.
Having this knowledge, David went back to his 4 acre estate focused on increasing the quality of the coffee by paying meticulous attention to the processing of the green bean. His family’s coffee plants had always grew as a bush and were never sprayed with chemicals and fertilizers making them ideal for producing quality organic coffee cherries. Seeing this as a positive, David set out to learn new ways to increase high quality seasonal yields. David scoured Google and YouTube and taught himself pruning and mulching techniques as well as agricultural methods such as using manure from pigs and cattle already present on his family’s farm. Additionally, David sought knowledge from the best coffee factory managers and operators in his area. These individuals taught him how to produce high quality coffee during the pulping, washing, and drying processes of coffee. Methods such as washing the coffee twice and soaking it in water for 24 hours which contributes to maintaining a well balanced cup after roasting.
David believes that coffee is a positive crop to grow and sell in Kenya as coffee is a highly traded commodity that can be quite lucrative. However, trade is difficult due to larger companies and estates due to their supposed political influence and station within the community.
Small quantities of coffee are difficult to trade because most exporters focus on volume. For example, 12000 tons of green coffee is required to fill a 20 foot container for export overseas. This hampers trade efforts as most coffee farms in Kenya are between 1 and 2 acres large as opposed to countries such as Brazil where coffee operations can be hundreds of acres. These difficulties force small hold coffee farmers to rely on large cooperative societies that pay farmers on average, less than a dollar per kilogram of coffee cherry. Throughout his research, David has only encountered one cooperative that paid farmers a dollar per kilogram of coffee cherry.
Additionally, most estate farmers in Kenya are of an older generation, being 40 years of age or older. These individuals are not able to implement new sustainable processing methods to increasing the quality of coffee produced. This then makes them unable to sell to international roasters due to low coffee cherry production volumes, which forces these farmers to combine harvests with other coffee operations and international brokers who process the coffee at an average of 2.5 dollars per kilo. Although this helps farmers attain the necessary volumes for export, the additional processes dilute overall profits to single estate farmers.
David however believes that he future of coffee production in Kenya is bright as 95% of Kenyan coffee is exported. The future of coffee relies on empowering women and youth. Having been brought up by two sisters, David envisions giving women the ability to work as an integral part of Kenya’s coffee success. The farm currently provides full time employment to 5 individuals; three women and two male youths. Additionally, Maguta Coffee Estate provides seasonal work for over 40 women during harvest season. David hopes that utilizing recent advances such as online technology and social media can help Kenyan coffee farmers add value to their operations by learning new sustainable techniques. David continues to successfully operate his coffee estate despite much adversity and remains confident that his methods can be passed on to future Kenyan youth who he hopes will spearhead the necessary changes to Kenya’s coffee industry.
If you would like to reach out to David or have any other questions feel free to comment below or visit his website here.
David also welcomes email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org