By: PATRICK NZIOKA
While every one else is giving up on coffee, 79-year-old George Mutisya Ndulu has kept his hopes alive and has taken to farming the crop in a major way.
Mr Ndulu, a retired secondary school principal and arguably the top coffee farmer in Machakos County, remains optimistic that he will always get returns from his hard work.
With about 84,000 trees currently and a pulping mill of his own, Mr Ndulu is already reaping benefits from his 160-acre well-kept farm.
In an interview with the Nation, Mr Ndulu says he earns about Sh20 million per year from the sale of his crop. On average, Mr Ndulu harvests not less 700,000 kilogrammes of cherry.
He has been buying land over the years which he puts under coffee, making him the most successful small holder coffee farmer in Matungulu, Machakos County.
HOW NDULU MANAGES HIS PROFITABLE FARM
And with a mill of his own, Mr Ndulu pulps his cherry, dries it and sells his harvest to Thika Coffee Mills for milling and sale at the Nairobi Coffee Auction.
During the peak season of harvesting, the farm employs between 800 to 1,000 casual workers daily who pick the coffee.
To be able to get such a number, announcements are made through schools and churches.
Responsibilities at the farm are well spelt out between him, his farm manager of 42 years, Mr John Kyalo and his son Francis Kimeu who is involved in marketing the produce.
When the Nation team visited, Mr Ndulu and his manager were busy supervising workers who were digging trenches in readiness for the rains while Mr Kimeu had gone to the Coffee Auction to monitor how their consignment would perform.
Coffee varieties in the farm include Ruiru 11, SL 28 and 34, K7 and Batian. They are grafted to make them resistant to diseases like Leafrust.
Mr Ndulu has three boreholes that supply the farm with water. Despite the hot weather, his crop is green.
Mr Ndulu says mulching ensures the farm retains enough water to keep the crop green throughout the year. The water is used to irrigate the young trees.
70’S COFFEE BOOM
Mr Ndulu started growing coffee in 1970 with about 2,000 trees.
During the coffee boom in 1997, he says he earned about Sh35,000 which convinced him there was money in coffee farming.
He worked hard and increased the acreage under the crop. Since then, he has not looked back.
“I have continued to invest in land under coffee since the coffee boom. I was convinced that I could make money just like other farmers who made about Sh200,000 which was a lot money at the time”, he says.
As the acreage increased as well as his harvest, Mr Ndulu says it was evident the local coffee factory that he took his coffee to alongside the other farmers would not be cope.
He began the process of acquiring a license to set up his own mill. At the time, the licensing regime was controlled by the government so much that a farmer could only be licensed if he had 10,000 trees and more.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION