The coffee industry in Kenya is under siege, even as stakeholders struggle to revive decades of neglect. In traditional coffee growing zones, farmers have abandoned their farms, which have now grown into bushes. But the real threat to the industry now comes in the form of the growing appetite for real estate. Thousands of acres of prime land used for growing coffee are slowly disappearing as demand for high-end housing in urban areas increases. Areas most affected by the development are those surrounding major towns such as Nairobi, Kiambu, Thika and Nyeri, which are known for their lush coffee estates.
In Nairobi, estates like Runda, Garden Estate and Ridgeways, where large scale coffee farms once stood are gradually giving way to real estate. The new development has now caught the attention of the country’s coffee authorities who see it as a cause for concern.” This is happening around major towns due to scarcity of land as the towns expand,” said Bernard Gichovi, production manager, coffee Board of Kenya.
Coffee estates account for almost 40 per cent of the total production. Estimates for 2007/2008 published by the coffee Research Foundation show that the estate sub-sector is projected to produce 16,696 metric tonnes of the total 41,861 tonnes. This was a marked drop in the projections for 2006/2007, which placed the estate sub-sector at 17, 369 metric tonnes.
The reduction is attributed to the changing use of land in former coffee estates. Most coffee plantations were located near the major towns by white settler farmers due to the availability of good roads and other facilities.