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Kenya: Growing Beyond its Borders

Posted: 08/16/06

Map of Kenya

The Republic of Kenya has an extremely controversial past, stemming in part from the racial hostilities that developed around the turn of the century during the British occupation. Known as British East Africa from 1890 to 1920, the Republic of Kenya is renowned for its tropical coastline, arid deserts and fertile highlands. Although this unique geography supports an abundant amount of wildlife that draws more than 90,000 tourists to Kenya each year, coffee farming is a crucial part of the country’s economy.

The rich soil and cooler climate found in the highlands make for ideal conditions for coffee cultivation. The White Highlands, as they’ve been commonly referred to since British colonization, produce a substantial amount of Kenya’s coffee. While coffee is said to have originated in Ethiopia, Kenya’s neighbor to the north, coffee did not begin to impact the Kenyan economy until the country’s colonial period.

More than 189 million pounds of coffee were exported in 2000, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, thus providing jobs and security for more than 250,000 Kenyans involved in the cultivation process. Both large coffee estates and smaller coffee co-ops near Mt. Kenya almost exclusively grow Arabica coffee and utilize eight mills located throughout the country. For many years, the Coffee Board of Kenya acted as the sole marketer for farmers across the country, suppressing any competition and keeping coffee farmers in poverty.

Last week, Kenya’s Agriculture Minister, Mr. Kipruto Kirwa, announced that the Coffee Board of Kenya would repay farmers 641 million shillings in lost revenue. The government hopes that these funds will boost agricultural productivity, as well as cushion farmers from adverse prices in the international market.

Regional African Coffees Java Joe’sJava Joe’s Kenya AA Guama
Java Joe’sJava Joe’s Tanzanian Peaberry
J. MartinezJ. Martinez Kenya AA
J. MartinezJ. Martinez Tanzania Peaberry
J. MartinezJ. Martinez Ethiopian Harrar Horse
All Kenyan coffee is classified based on the screen size of the bean. Kenya AA for instance is considered the largest bean - with a size of 17/64 to 18/64 of an inch.

So in fact, the extremely popular Kenya AA is not so much a flavor, but an Arabica bean grown in Kenya that meets a certain size requirement.

The Republic of Kenya

  • President: Mwai Kibaki
  • Capital: Nairobi
  • Population: 34,256,000
  • Language: English and Swahili
  • Currency: Kenyan Shilling
  • Animals: Elephants, Lions, Buffalo, Leopards, Rhinoceroses, Gazelles, Zebras, Hyenas, Cheetahs and Hippopotamuses.