World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


Bitter coffee in Kenya... one family’s story…

Bitter coffee in Kenya... one family’s story…

Stephen Mahia, 10, is one of the new generation of Kenyan children who cannot go to primary school. Ten years ago, this was almost unheard of in Murang'a District, Stephen's home, where for generations there has been a passionate hunger for education. Cash from growing coffee helped build the primary and secondary schools, and pay for the children to attend them. But over the last five years world prices have fallen.

Photo inset: Niassia Duta weeds her coffee plot

Normally, Kenyan beans fetch one of the highest premiums on the world market. The average 1997 price at the Nairobi auction was 243 Kenyan Shillings (KES) per kilogram (AUS$5.70). However, the provisional figure for 2000 is $2.70 per kilogram. Prices at auction remain much the same today, averaging about $2.80 per kilogram in May 2002. While those who buy, mill, truck, market, ship, roast and sell the coffee still make their profits, the farmers in Central Province have not been paid. In 2002, Stephen was sent home from primary school because he was unable to pay his fees. His brother Samuel Boro, 8, has been unable to even start at school.

Each year Stephen and Samuel's mother, Niassia Duta, picks the red cherries (from which the coffee beans are derived) from 200 coffee bushes on her hillside shamba (plot). But since 1996 Niassia has received no more than 6 or 7 Shillings (14 or 16 cents) for each kilogram she has taken to her local Co-operative Society factory in Makungu.

"Without coffee, I can only earn money by labouring, weeding, hoeing, carrying manure - 60 KES ($1.40) for working from 8 to 4pm, even to 5pm. But these days I can go a week without finding a job. The employers no longer have cash to pay."

In the shops at her local trading centre, a tin of Nescafé Classic, made from poorer quality robusta coffee imported from the Ivory Coast, and packaged in Nairobi, sells for $6.20 for 200 grams. Niassia only receives 2-3% of the final selling price of her coffee.

Niassia poured some Kenyan beans from a foreign supermarket shelf into her hand. "It looks like our coffee and it smells like our coffee. But with this price it must be something different. Our coffee only has to be heated to look like this. Why is it - when we have this fertile land, with good sun and good rain, and can grow these crops - that you are rich and we are poor?"

Stephen busied himself weeding the maize. "I do some digging and fetch grass and water, but I get very bored. I'd like to go back to school. I feel left behind when the others go. They will be able to do things that I can't do."

Note: AUS $1= 43 Kenyan Shilling (KES)

For further information, interviews, footage, photograph and case studies,
contact Carly Hammond at Oxfam Community Aid Abroad on (61)(3) 9289 9413 or (61) 409 181 454.

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Binoy Kampmark: Europe Dries Up
Scenes and pictures have been circulating of broken earth, lacking moisture, cracked and yearning. But these are not from traditional drought-stricken parts of the planet, where the animal carcass assumes near totemic power... More>>

UN: Bachelet Alarmed By Number Of Palestinian Children Killed In Latest Escalation

UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet today expressed alarm at the high number of Palestinians, including children, killed and injured in the occupied Palestinian territory this year, including in intense hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza last weekend... More>>

Save The Children: One Year Under Taliban Rule, Girls Are More Isolated, Hungry, Sad: New Report
One year since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, an economic crisis, crippling drought and new restrictions have shattered girls’ lives, excluding them from society and leaving them hungry...

Somalia: ‘We Cannot Wait For Famine To Be Declared; We Must Act Now’
Rising acute food insecurity in Somalia has caused more than 900,000 people to flee their homes in search of humanitarian assistance since January last year, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned... More>>

UN: American West Faces Water And Power Shortages Due To Climate Crisis
Two of the largest reservoirs in the United States are at dangerously low levels due to the climate crisis and overconsumption of water, which could affect water and electricity supply for millions in six western states and Mexico, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warned on Tuesday... More>>

Singapore: UN Experts Call For Immediate Moratorium On Executions For Drug Offences

UN experts* today condemned the execution of Nazeri Bin Lajim, a 64-year-old Malay Singaporean national convicted of drug offenses and urged the Government of Singapore to halt plans to execute individuals on death row for drug related charges... More>>