What you need to know:
- Fortunately, the Coffee Bill 2023 seeks to make coffee growing and marketing a more inclusive affair.
- The Bill, if enacted into law, will require counties to maintain a register of coffee growers in their jurisdictions.
To transform Kenya’s coffee sector, the existing laws governing production, processing and marketing of the crop must be revamped to give women and youth a greater voice, dismantle the patriarchal system that excludes these two critical groups, and entrench their participation and influence in key governance institutions within the industry.
Fortunately, the Coffee Bill 2023 seeks to make coffee growing and marketing a more inclusive affair. The Bill was first presented to coffee stakeholders at a meeting in August, convened by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua who is also spearheading the coffee sector reforms on behalf of President William Ruto.
The proposed law contains a raft of measures that if enacted by Parliament, will significantly improve the fortunes of the farmer.
Besides taming cartels and middlemen (the Bill prohibits an individual or entity from holding multiple licences), the Bill also provides that women must be represented at the highest decision-making level in critical industry institutions, namely, Coffee Board of Kenya (CBK) and Coffee Research Institute (CRI).
In addition, one of the representatives of smallholder or plantation farmers in the board of CBK and CRI must be a woman. However, there is need to go even further by requiring that no more than two-thirds of these two crucial boards should be of one gender, in line with the Constitution.
Coffee value chain
In addition, the functions of the CBK should be expanded to include promotion of an inclusive coffee value chain, by strengthening the role of women and youth, in the growth and development of the industry.
CBK must also ensure gender equity in formulation and implementation of strategies, funding models, plans and policy for the coffee sector.
In developing a framework for capacity building for players in the coffee industry (as provided in Section 11 of the Bill), CBK must ensure inclusion of women and youth at all levels. The Bill, if enacted into law, will require counties to maintain a register of coffee growers in their jurisdictions.
This particular provision should be re-drafted to include a mandatory annual review of the county register to determine the number of women and youth registered as coffee growers. The report should then be submitted to CBK for action including identifying and acting on factors leading to the exclusion of these two groups.
One of the biggest challenges facing women in the coffee sector is limitation on property ownership. This means they cannot be registered as coffee owners unless they lease or own land.
The Bill as currently drafted should be reviewed to provide for joint registration of spouses in respect of a family coffee farm. It should also cater for registration of adult children where they have been allocated coffee bushes by their parents.
There is also need to take into account community, women and youth groups engaged in coffee production, processing and marketing. CRI should prioritise women and youth participation in coffee production as one of its research mandates as well as training and capacity building.
Lastly, one aspect that has always been overlooked is coffee consumption by the local population. CBK needs to re-define its approaches to promoting coffee drinking among Kenyans - to bring it to the same level that tea is consumed locally.
This could through media campaigns backed by a favorable tax and policy environment to encourage investment in milling, processing, roasting and packaging of our coffee locally. This will ensure our coffee is affordable to majority of Kenyans.
In addition, developing a local market for our coffee will serve as a cushion to sustain farmers’ earnings against falling export markets and prices.
Ms Muhu is a coffee farmer and businesswoman. Email: [email protected]