Thousands of coffee farmers are set to get back their title deeds and other attached collaterals after President Uhuru Kenyatta waived off Sh2billion debt owed by farmers in the troubled sector.
The sigh of relief will also boost the dwindling coffee sector that has been marred by poor pay and other challenges for farmers.
President Kenyatta made the pronouncement during a development tour in Kirinyaga County.
The move is likely to whip voter’s in Central Kenya region amid reports of likely voter apathy during 2017 presidential polls against newly formed Jubilee party.
“Now that we have now written off all the past coffee debts, we want farmers to head back to their lands and do the farming. In 2012, we promised to write off all the debts during a major coffee meeting here at Kerugoya Stadium, I’m proud to be back and honour the promise.” he said.
Coffee farming is largely practiced in the Mount Kenya region, but has seen a major setback in the past a few years due to the debts.
In march this year, President Kenyatta appointed a task force to investigate the state of the coffee industry and identify areas that need reform to improve farmers’ earning.
Its secretariat will be at the Cabinet Affairs Office, which falls under The Presidency.
The National Task Force on Coffee Sub-sector Reform is undertaking consultations with coffee stakeholders in the country, according to a Gazette notice published Friday.
Two presidential advisors, Dann Mwangi (Director of Political Affairs) and Morris Kaburu (Director, Legal Affairs) will be joint secretaries.
Prof Joe Keiyah, an American-trained lawyer and economist, will co-chair the task force with Agriculture Principal secretary Richard Lesiyampe. Kieya is currently a senior policy analyst and head of private sector development division at the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis.
Other members of the task force include Kevin Ashley—a co-founder of Nairobi’s famous coffee restaurant chain, Java Coffee House—and World Bank agricultural advisor Dr Andrew Karanja.
Uhuru wants the task force to recommend a coffee value chain that substantially increases the farmers’ incomes and provide sufficient financial support for production and training.
The value chain that the task force will recommend must also ensure best processing and marketing practices to optimise returns based on transparency, fair trade and constitutional property rights.
It will also develop a prioritised implementation matrix clearly stating the immediate, medium and long-term coffee sector reforms and the resultant budgetary requirements.