The Slopes of 8 project groups eight farmers on neighboring hills on the slopes of Mount Kenya in Kirinyaga county. They were selected for this project, based on production criteria from Wycleff, Kenyacof’s agronomist. The cherries from these eight farmers were processed at the facilities on their own land instead of at a central wet mill, where normally all production from various farmers is processed together. Also at the dry mill, the lots were kept separate. Kenyacof bought the lot directly from them, bypassing the auction, so the return the farmers would be larger. They don’t have to pay the milling and marketing fees to the cooperative, which means a huge saving on the direct return.
In this structure, more money flows back directly to them.
Stephen Munene, Charles Mwenje, Benson Mitano, Joseph Kabara, Anthony Njiraini, Harry Gachoki, Jane Muthike and the Gichangi brothers own the 8 independent estates which are part of the Slopes of 8. The idea of being part of a group of farmers is slightly different from participating in a big Cooperative Society. In a small unit like this, the number of farmers combining their coffees is much smaller while the focus on and control of quality is better.
The Slopes of 8 coffee is processed following the traditional Kenyan method of 24-hour fermentation, washing and final soaking. In the case of these eight farmers, the processing was just done on a much smaller scale, on equipment they have in their own yards. Depending on weather conditions, the parchment takes around 14 days to be properly dried on the raised tables they built themselves. The producers get support during all steps of the production process from Wycliffe, agronomist and most experienced Kenyan coffee expert.
The producers and farms behind Slopes of 8
Samuga (Owner: Stephen Munene/ Location: Mutira) – Stephen is 72 years old, married and with a family of 8. He started farming coffee and tea in 1964 and has 5 acres planted with SL34 only.
Njirungi (Owner: Charles Mwenje/ Location: Mutira) – Charles is 61 years old and a father of 4. He has 4 blocks of coffee in Mutira, where he starting planting in the year 2000. He has almost 4,000 stems of SL28, SL34 and Batian.
Kabaru (Owner: Benson Mithano/ Location: Kanyekiini) – Benson is 70 years old and has 6 children. His family helps out on the farm and at the mill. He planted 2,200 stems in 1975 and produces an average of 20,000 kgs of cherry yearly.
Kabumbu (Owner: Joseph Karaba/ Location: Kaguyu) – Kabumbo Growers was founded by two brothers, Joseph and Stanley. Joseph, the Chairman of the Slopes of Eight group is 59 years old and worked for Crown Berger for over 15 years. He has now retired to being full-time coffee farmer. Joseph inherited 400 stems from his father and planted another 900 stems recently. His brother Stanley is 65 years old. He has 600 stems in the block he inherited from his father plus another 200 recently planted trees.
Kimbo (Owner: Anthony Njiraini/ Location: Inoi) – Anthony is 60 years old, married and has 4 children. He has 3 blocks of coffee and a total of 2,100 stems. He produces between 10,000 to 12,000 kgs of cherry every year.
Rugongo (Owner: Harry Gachoki/Location: Mwerua) – Harry is 58 years old. He has 3 children and is a full-time farmer after retiring from working in the Ministry of Water and Irrigation. His experience contributes to good agricultural practices to be taken at the farm. At Rugongo, he planted 2,000 trees in 1989.
Gichangi (Owners: Gichangi brothers/ Location: Mutira) – Gichangi Estate is a family business, managed by Charles, David, Stanley and Julius. Together, they own two farms and a total of 8.5 acres are under coffee. The first trees were planted by their father Stephen in 1955.
Kakumutho (Owner: Jane Muthike/ Location: Njukiini) – Jane was named the Secretary of the group. She has 10 acres of SL28 and Ruiru 11 and produces 40,000 kgs of cherry on average every year.