Fair Trade USA Opens Doors For Kenyan Coffee Farmers

Kikai Farmers Society Cooperative, Mt. Elgon, Kenya

05/19/2011 - 5:05 PM

Gerison Mabonga lives on the slopes of Mt. Elgon in Western Kenya where more than 50% of his neighbors live below the poverty line.

Gerison's cooperative - Kikai Farmers Society – is Fair Trade Certified and made up of 1,866 members. Most farmers in the area grow their coffee on just half an acre of land. Like many of us, Kikai members want to be able to provide for themselves and their families. But they face daunting obstacles to making a decent living, including;

  • Bad roads for transporting their coffee harvest
  • Climate change and drought
  • Old and inefficient coffee processing equipment

Fair Trade USA takes a unique approach to working with communities like Kikai. We don’t fix the problems of bad roads or poor equipment – rather, Fair Trade USA’s staff provides the training and support needed by farming cooperatives to put their own solutions into action. In addition to this productive training, Fair Trade USA also helps connect cooperatives to U.S. businesses and the global Fair Trade market where consumers like you can buy their products.

Kikai Society's coffee producers knew Fair Trade USA could help and they requested training not only to to run their cooperative more efficiently, but also to improve the quality of their coffee so they can sell if for a higher price on the market. Kikai members were excited to participate despite their many other household and work responsibilities. During several days they learned basic bookkeeping, cooperative communication and management, and proper coffee washing techniques.  

“Kikai was in darkness, but we now see the light. After the learning we have received, I have one question: How did we survive without this knowledge?” -Jimmy Simbi, Kikai Chairman

This spring Fair Trade USA used donations to fund and organize training in basic accounting, business management, and coffee processing for the coffee cooperative. Kikai farmers are getting their books in order to apply for a loan to finance new coffee processing equipment – an eco-pulper that will wash coffee cherries 4 times faster and use ¾ less water than their traditional methods. The new equipment will run on eco-friendly palm tree oil instead of diesel fuel - better for the environment and cheaper for the cooperative.

Fair Trade USA’s trainings were successful, and word spread quickly. Several other coffee cooperatives in the area have asked for the same opportunity; training has started at nearby Kaliluni Farmers Society Cooperative. With your support, Fair Trade USA can give farmers and workers an exceptional chance – not only to survive – but to provide for their communities as a whole: electricity, paved roads, clean drinking water.

How can you help?

  • Donate: Every $1 you donate to Fair Trade USA generates $5 in additional income for farmers like Jimmy Simbi.
  • Buy: Look for the Fair Trade Certified™ label on products like coffee.
  • Ask: Does your neighborhood café or grocery store carry Fair Trade coffee?



05/19/2011 - 5:05 PM
05/19/2011 - 5:05 PM