Kisii - In a significant move to rejuvenate agriculture, Rainforest Alliance, an international non-profit organization, is set to improve the landscape and supply chains of 10,000 small-holder coffee farmers in Kenya's Gusii region. This initiative, focusing on regenerative agriculture, aims to restore ecosystems and enhance farmers' incomes.
The official launch of the Gusii Regenerative Agriculture Landscape (GuRAL) Coffee Project in Kisii town was marked by Rainforest Alliance Country Director Marion Nduta Ng'ang'a's announcement. According to Kenya News Agency, the project aligns with the organization's global effort to harmonize agricultural business and forest conservation, ensuring sustainable practices. Kenya is among 60 countries where Rainforest Alliance helps farmers achieve certification through sustainable agriculture standards and resilience building.
The GuRAL project, partnering with the Gusii region, is expected to implement sustainable coffee production practices using an integrated landscape management approach. Ng'ang'a expressed confidence that within two years, the initiative could expand throughout the Gusii region.
The project is part of a broader strategy by Rainforest Alliance in Kenya, including the Sustainable Landscapes and Livelihoods (MSULI Program) in the Mt. Kenya area. This program targets 50,000 small-holder coffee and tea farmers and 1,000 forest communities, particularly in Embu and Kirinyaga Counties.
Alice Manoti, Nyamira County's Executive Committee Member for Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries, highlighted the project's role in applying best agricultural practices to revitalize coffee production, one of the area's prioritized crops. She also noted the potential benefits of industrial parks construction in organized and increased production.
Dr. Robert Mainya, CEO of the Gusii Coffee Farmers' Cooperative Union, emphasized the union's need for the partnership, citing certification requirements for selling produce in Europe by 2024. He commended societies already certified, including Kiomoocha, Marani, Nyaturubo, Gesons, Nyamache, and Girango.
Rainforest Alliance, present in 60 countries, focuses on balancing people and nature for mutual thriving. The launch follows a 50% decline in Kenyan coffee production over the last 25 years, stagnating at around 40,000 metric tons per year. Factors contributing to this decline include climate change, unsustainable water use, aging coffee trees, soil degradation, and cooperatives' challenges in supporting members.
The project, supported by JDE Peet's, aims to restore 100 hectares of land in Gusii by 2023-2025, establish agroforestry nurseries, provide training, and promote regenerative and climate-smart practices. Funded by Jacobs Douwe Egberts (JDE Peets) and Rainforest Alliance, the project will be implemented in collaboration with Kisii and Nyamira County Governments, Gusii Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (GCFCU), and Tropical Farm Management Kenya LTD (TFMKe).
Gusii was selected for its existing certificates, red volcanic soils, good rainfall, existing partners, and the presence of other Rainforest Alliance Certified Commodities like tea. However, challenges like land fragmentation, climate change, aging coffee trees, and environmental degradation remain.