Philip and Harriet Muluya have had a good year. They bought a new car with some of the money from their coffee crop last season. Writer Michael J. Ssali visited their home last week to learn the secrets behind successful coffee farming in our world today. During the interview, the Muluya’s offered much advice, some of which applies to all of us. The Muluyas are more upscale coffee farmers than those about whom we usually write. Mr. Muluya is a retired agricultural extension service provider, while Mrs. Muluya is a retired school teacher. Mr. Muluya also chairs the local farming association while his wife champions gender equality issues. Not exactly examples of laid back retirement, but obviously this is a dynamic couple.
Mr. M’s first secret is that he entered into a relationship sale with a buyer in Italy, Caffe River. Caffe River is a roaster which aims to help the farmers by eliminating a middleman and dealing directly with the coffee association representing the farmers. The Muluyas could have sold early and not worried about the stringent requirements of the buyer, but that would have meant less money. He advises patience, because by following the requirements of Caffe River, such as certain drying procedures and insuring clean coffee, the Muluyas were able to receive the higher price for their coffee. The association acted as middleman but only took out reimbursement for expenses.
During the period of time the coffee was dried and readied for Caffe River, the roaster had arranged for advance money to be paid to the Muluyas. The Caffe River contract and policy that aims to empower farmers can be read at: http://www.omukwano.com/agreement.htm. The goal of the relationship is to join with others “in different countries to overcome the hurdles that create a heavy burden to the weaker link of the chain, the farmers, and at the same time to produce a much better quality of coffee.” The Muluyas gave other advice. They basically advise other coffee farmers to use shade-grown practices of coffee farming, suggesting that other crops be planted in addition to the coffee, since farming only brings in income during harvest seasons. The couple raise maize, bananas, mangoes, a dairy cow and some pigs.
Mrs. M has more advice for the farmer’s family, but it applies to any of us with families and a business. She advises that all efforts toward and monies taken from the coffee crop be transparent, with all family members knowing the costs and rewards of the business. In her words concerning children: “Together they come to respect coffee as their family’s joint enterprise and their source of livelihood. Where transparency is lacking there may be theft of the crop by the family members and minimum attention paid to the crop, since each individual will be suspicious of the other, and ultimately the coffee quality will deteriorate along with its money value, resulting in lower household income.” So, respect, honesty and transparency not only results in a better product, but brings in more income for all as well. That’s advice we all can use. To read the original article, click on the image.