How Africans got a taste of sweet coffee exports cash

Government officials inspect coffee grown in the Kamuthanga Cooperative Society farm in 1966. The quality of African-grown coffee equalled and sometimes surpassed that of their European counterparts. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • The missionaries believed that the most effective way of converting Africans to Christianity was to discipline their minds through work. Most Africans who planted coffee were Christian converts.
  • The results were so impressive that London requested Nairobi to encourage European settlers to increase acreages under coffee.
  • Surplus coffee from Kenya was soon exported to Britain where it was sold as “Nairobi Coffee” in Mincing Lane, London.
  • More seriously, allowing private entrepreneurs to be in charge of all aspects of the coffee industry would compromise the quality of exports.

The Church of Scotland and the Holy Ghost Fathers were the first to grow commercial coffee in Kenya. In the early 1890s, Clement Scott bought 3,000 acres around Thogoto in Kiambu to grow cash crops, including coffee. This was to help make the church self-supporting in terms of food and finances.

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