Today we meet a mother and her daughters. Starting left to right we have Julianna(mother), Eunice and Ruth. They also belong to the Kamba tribe. Julianna and her daughters live in Kyandote (pronounced Chee-an-dotay.) This area of Kenya is one of the more impoverished areas and has been hit very hard by the poor coffee prices. If you look closely in the background of this picture you will see that these women are hoeing up corn or maize. A few years ago the coffee market took a very hard decline in Kenya and most farmers either stopped caring for their crop or cut it down and planted corn in its place because it is more useful for feeding their families. These ladies are actually in the process of taking the corn out from around their coffee plants. If farmers like Julianna and her husband Sammy were able to get a fair price on their coffee, they would not need to plant the corn every year. Since, coffee is harvested yearly without being replanted the cost in growing it is just the time it takes to care for it.
As we drove up to these three ladies, we drove past a mud hut with a thatched roof. When the rainy season comes (March) the hut will erode more and more. The roof will no doubt leak through the straw and sooner or later the straw will collapse in. When the roof gives way it will rain on someone, maybe an adult, maybe a child, but there will be no escaping the elements at that point. What I realized while I was there was that all of the stories we hear and pictures we see sometimes cause us to grow calloused and that behind every picture and story is a person. These people are just like us, they get cold and wet in the rain, they cry when they are sad or alone. We can see how people live in another country and see the depths of their poverty and then somehow move on unaffected.
But, even as I write this I am affected…
Meet Jones, he is a coffee farmer from the Kyuu (pronounced Choe) area of Kenya. Jones is part of the Kamba tribe. We found Jones pruning his coffee plants as we drove by. His story was a familiar one and being very friendly he shared with us what he was doing and how coffee farming has affected him as he continued to prune his plants. Just down the hill behind Jones is a coffee processing plant which is run by the local co-op. In April and May as Jones harvests the coffee cherries (which we will show you in a later post) he takes them down the hill to the processing plant. When he drops off the coffee cherries, he waits about one week and then gets paid a very small fraction of the price of his crop. He then waits about 12 months to collect the rest of his money, which is the first tragedy in the whole situation. The second tragedy here is that the money he gets paid, in total equals about $0.38 per pound of coffee cherries. This is what keeps most coffee farmers impoverished in Kenya. The final problem with this whole situation is that currently the price to buy green coffee (un-roasted) is about $5.27 per pound, which means that the system has been setup to take advantage of these farmers that produce one of the best coffees in the world. Before we left Jones, he said to us “If there is anything you can do to help us, please help!” There is more to this story please stay tuned…
Mount Killamanjaro in the background
Over the next couple of posts, I hope to introduce you to Kenya. This picture is of one beautiful scene we encountered while there, but my hope is to introduce you to the Kenyan people, specifically the Kumba tribe.
From the moment we arrived in Kalimarket (a little village about an 1 and 1/2 hours outside of Nairobi) to the time we left we were warmly welcomed. The children and adults were friendly and curious about the “glowing skinned” people who had come to their village.