Role of Coffee Industries in Rural Development: A Case Study of Komothai and Kiratina Locations in Githunguri Divisions of Kiambu District, Kenya.

All nations aspire to achieve economic development. Agriculture continues to play a significant role in the process of rural economic development. Coffee has been the prime mover of the Kenyan economy since independence. The general trend in the contribution made by the coffee industry to the total earnings of the country has been declining continuously from 40 per cent (1975 to 1996) to 10 per cent (Kenya, 2001/2002). The decline in prices and production has eroded farm incomes and has contributed to increased poverty in rural areas.

The coffee industry is an important sector in Komothai and Kiratina locations which is expected to offer employment opportunities and contribute to incomes and thus spurring rural development. Despite these benefits, very little in terms of development can be attributed to the industries in the area due to increased unemployment, increased competition on the use of land, the environment has been degraded and deteriorated and the economy is actually stagnating.

The coffee industries were studied with the main objective of examining their role in the development of the area. In order to address this objective, the study examined the backward and forward linkages in coffee production at the farm level, processing at factories and mills levels to the marketing activities. The study further identified and examined the major problems facing the coffee farmers from production to the point of payments from sales and finally suggested policy measures for improving coffee production in processing and marketing.

The study employed various data collection methods including a household questionnaire, interview schedules, focused group discussions, and participant observations. The study was also conducted through review of secondary data. The household questionnaire was administered to 104 persons.

The study findings includes; low production of coffee, inefficient management at the farm and factory levels, poor market prices on coffee, lack of access to credit facilities, poor infrastructure in some parts as well as low and delayed payment All these present the weaknesses identified within the linkage pattern of the industry.

The study concludes with respect to set objectives that the main farming activities in Komathai are; Coffee farming, dairy farming, horticulture and subsistence farming. The backward and forward linkages are very weak because the farmers are not promptly paid resulting to poor agricultural methods. As a result the factories are underutilized. The linkage between the agro-industries and the marketing systems is hampered by poor infrastructure, low prices and so on.

The study has recommended various interventions including; the need to improve the production of coffee at the farm level, the need to improve the efficiency in payment and rationalize deductions and the need to train farmers. It is also crucial that the existing legislations be harmonized to enhance coffee production, processing, marketing and payment. The existing coffee industry need to be re-organized to improve its performance and efficiency. Government should intervene through co-ordination, decision making and policy formulation monitoring and evaluation and funding. These would enhance production and in turn expansion of coffee industries, increase income, employment and thus multiplier effects.

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