Charlene Ruto to mobilise Murang'a youth embrace coffee farming

Charlene Ruto during a past event.

Photo credit: Charlene Ruto\Twitter

President William Ruto's daughter, Charlene Ruto, has volunteered to serve as patron of Murang'a youth coffee farmers.

This will see her coordinate various stakeholders to help as many youths embrace coffee farming enterprises as a source of financial empowerment.

This was announced on Saturday by Deputy Governor Stephen Munania who also said Cooperative Bank and Amica Sacco have agreed to offer financial partnership for the drive. 

"We are pleased as a county to announce that the first daughter has agreed to be our patron and where I will be assisting her in ensuring that our youths who will embrace this sector will reap maximized benefits," Mr Munania 28, said.

Mr Munania revealed that the drive brings on board the County government, Murang'a Farmers Cooperative Union (MFCU) and the New Kenya Planters Cooperative Union (NKPCU) in a programme dubbed Murang'a County Youth in Coffee Agribusiness Initiative.

The MFCU will provide two acres for Ms Ruto to finance a coffee demonstration farm where  youths will be visiting to learn on best practices in the sector.

"The demo farm will be hosting frequent training and workshops by dedicated agronomists. Ms Ruto will progressively engage youths from crop growth stage to harvesting. We won't relent until the young people have benefited from this project," Mr Munania said.

Mr Munania said the end result will be the youths getting a guaranteed  Minimum of Sh100 per kilo of harvest by mid next year.

Munania said the county has been experiencing low prices for coffee harvests, a thing he said discouraged many youths from getting interested. 

"We have for some time been experiencing low prices leading to closure of some coffee factories, mills, and societies while others collapsed under millions of debt. These are the bad realities that have been making our youths find the sector unattractive," he said.

In 2021, the county produced  20.1 million kilos of cherry, this being a growth over time compared with the 15 million kilos the area produced in 2014. Area under coffee in Murang’a measures 13,325 ha—1,138 of them being plantations and 12,187 ha being under small scale holdings.

Small scale holdings currently have a membership of 132, 546 farmers 15, 586 of them being women. They all deliver their harvests to 128 factories that currently employ 698 people, 334 of them being females.

Mr Munania said youths do not want to be engaged in areas of the economy that do not guarantee profits.

"The many challenges in the sector have seen our youths lose faith in coffee farming. They have also witnessed their disillusioned parents and neighbours transforming coffee farms into concrete jungles especially in prime zones of Gatanga, Kandara and Maragua constituencies. Others have opted for alternative crops in pursuit of better returns," he said.

Mr Munania said there are a myriad of challenges to be addressed that inform the basis on which the county coffee sector turned into servitude.

"Those are the things we will now correct with the help of Ms Ruto. She will help our youths get structured subsidised production, access value addition and benefit from structured markets for maximum gain," he said.

Mr Munania said priority address areas are coffee farmers getting freedom to mill, market and directly sell their coffee to gain value for their labour.

"That is the only way we can create jobs and wealth for our youth and future generations," he said.

He said that the County Assembly will be whipped to introduce thought-out legal interventions to champion the coffee  reforms sector reforms in a bid to deliver the promise of better prices.

The Ms Ruto led coffee farming recruits will be issued with technologically approved seeds so that they can found their own nurseries. They will be encouraged to adopt high yielding Batian and Ruiru 11 varieties.

County Coffee Director  Dr Irungu Maina said value addition and market streamlining are the key areas that can make a kilo of coffee fetch a farmer not less than Sh200.

Murang'a County Commissioner Karuku Ngumo said the issue of revitalising the Murang'a coffee sector has been long overdue.

"Over the past 10 years, there have been several efforts to make the sector lucrative. I remain optimistic that we have the ability to realise the beautiful dream and we welcome Ms Ruto into the county to help us deal with the serious challenge of youth unemployment," he said.

Mr Ngumo said his County Security Committee is awake to the fact that coffee theft must be tamed saying farmers lose at least 40 percent of their potential pay.

“We will ensure that security is beefed up in all coffee warehouses. We will ensure that at all times that the warehouses are stocked, there is an all-around security.  If coffee gets stolen in an event where reports had been made to security agents to provide safety, the area security bosses and factory managers will be the ones to be treated prime suspects," he said.

He added that village security committees will be mobilised to ensure that coffee thefts in the farms are minimised.