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Kiawamururu Washing Station

Nyeri, Kenya
Partner since: 2018 Traceable to: 940 Members Altitude: 1750 Varietals: SL28, Ruiru 11, Batian

Cherries are pulped on a 4 disc Aaggard using water from the Ragati river, then floated through channels. The same water is used to soak beans for 12 – 18 hours before a second wash brings parchment down to a skin drying station for a hot but short stay, then to drying beds for slow long tempering, and finally to conditioning bins for resting and storage.

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Community Context

Saddled between Mt. Kenya and the Aberdare Range is a little town called Mukurwe-ini. Just outside this town is Kiawamururu Factory, a rather quick 160 Km shot up from Narobi along the Nairobi – Nyeri highway. This 940 member group formed from the ashes of the once great Mukurwe-ini Farmers Society, which fell apart in the early 90s. They are now wholly member-owned, and proudly independant if techincally part of the larger Rumukia Farmers Cooperative Society, who they joined in 2004 to take over from milling.

Their leadership is strong in current chariman Charles Karinga. Members take an active role in decision making, in part because part of FCS programming reaches down to touch daily life through committees on the topics of agronomy training, quality standards, sustainability and loans.

It seems obvious, but in practice it’s rather rare for the region that a group get involved down to the farm like this.

Country Context

Kenya is an enigma. It occupies a top spot in specialty – Kenyan top lots are always amongst the most expensive of any harvest. But yet it’s a country where coffee production is dropping year over year. Kenya is a place where traceability is given, but knowing what you want and how to get it are two different things. Rarely do we find partners more capable, and loyalties more difficult to navigate than we do in Kenya. For all the aforementioned reasons, competition in Kenya is fierce, making prized coffees feel like even more of a success.

However, no matter how formally the industry is structured, coffee still remains a system of people. And in a country where farmers own their own cherry production, there is additional power to connecting with coffee’s most important stakeholder. Farmers can, for example, point you to the best collections from every harvest, or delay sending their lots to auction to give you another week to sample. At request they can change the way they separate lots, bringing new products to market in a year that would take other countries nearly a decade to do.

But experimentation is not the name of the game. With washed coffees working so well, you won’t find many a manager willing to mess around with different fermentations, flotation, drying times or with certifications like organic.

The experiment instead is that of business model. How do cooperatives normalize earnings to keep their members engaged in coffee? How do we take away red tape to encourage more farmers to plant more coffee, as opposed to corn or dairy? How can small estates split off and succeed under their own pulping license? Is it better to sell through auction or directly to an international buyer – can you afford to cut out your marketing agent? Once you speak to these problems you are speaking the language of coffee in Kenya – this is a country that already knows how to coffee.