This Autumn we had a first on our farm in Kenya: Our first visitors came to check out their very own coffee trees. When we said to our farm members ‘you’re always welcome to visit your tree’ we always thought it was a long-shot that anyone would pop in. I mean, who would be passing by our remote Kenyan Farm, or coffee-fanatic enough to travel thousands of miles for a visit?
For Jacqui & Mike, dedicated Meru Farm members a planned holiday to Kenya was the perfect time to take up their chance to visit their very own coffee trees. They popped in to meet George & Isaac & take a tour of The Muchomba Farm & nearby Ruiga School. This is their account of their visit:
Paddy and Scott’s is not just about coffee – even their brilliant coffee – it is much more than that, as we discovered for ourselves when we dropped in to visit Muchomba Coffee Farm, located in Meru County, Kenya. We were given a really warm welcome as the first tree owners to visit. We were met by George and Isaac, the father and son team who head the farm and produce the coffee. Other members of the family arrived to meet with us and we learnt that Isaac had driven the four-hours from Nairobi just to meet with us. He was to make the return journey after we had departed. The Muchomba project is a family run enterprise focused on producing the best coffee possible.
The farm is not easy to find but we had telephone numbers and our driver spoke with Isaac and they met us on the main road so we could follow them. It is a working farm operated by real people dedicated to coffee. No time was wasted and we were shown around the seemingly endless coffee trees, each bearing a number relating to the owner. It was an adventure just to find our two trees. We arrived back at the house for a cup of coffee before being shown the processing and drying areas. It is not a large production facility as found with multinational operations but a genuine family farm producing genuine coffee. That said, the process of growing coffee is complex and requires skill from the grower, and the Muchomba project has all of that.
As we said – it is not just coffee, but the project that extends beyond that. Education has to be paid for in Kenya and many low or no income families do not have the money to pay for their children’s lessons, books and school uniforms. Ruiga primary and secondary schools are the farm’s local non-private schools, and Isaac told us that when Paddy and Scott’s first arrived the long school building was in very poor shape. An earth bank had built up against one side to the level of the window openings, so when it rained muddy water ran off into the building onto the earth floor. In fact, the windows were not glazed to keep out the adverse weather and the roof leaked water onto the pupils and staff. The toilets, such as they were, had almost collapsed. It was desperate times for everybody connected to the school and if it was to remain open it needed help.
Paddy and Scott’s could have just focused on getting the coffee but they took up the challenge of helping the school. The list was long: The mud bank had to be removed; the long roof had to be replaced; running water needed to be laid into the school – the nearest location was just over 6km away; proper windows needed to fill the open spaces; a concrete floor was needed for the whole building; proper paths had to be laid; toilet and washroom blocks were required; a new science laboratory was needed; and then there was the primary school next door – which was wet and cold in winter. With no great fanfare Paddy and Scott’s set about the task of helping the community.
The work completed so far is brilliant, and the headmistress is very pleased, as were the two teachers we spoke to. Water runs to site and storage tanks are in place; the mud was removed from the long wall; windows installed; footpaths laid; roof replaced; concrete floor laid; blocks of washrooms and toilets built; and a new science lab is under construction. The primary school has a miniature coffee farm and processing plant so the youngsters can learn about coffee production. It’s all happening at Meru in Kenya.