The Ruthagati Cooperative is located near the town of Karatina in Nyeri, Kenya and is a member of the greater Rutuma FCS. Bean There Coffee Company has been purchasing coffee from Ruthagati since 2007 in increasing quantities year on year.
Bean There’s Jonathan formed a special relationship with a producer named Agnes and he and other members of Bean There have visited her and other Ruthagati members several times. The improvement in the quality and quantity of coffee produced has been extremely encouraging. Of the approximate 1000 farmers providing cherries to Ruthagati, 807 are active members of the cooperative. The producers are paid by the cooperative after the coffee has sold. Of the final amount received for the year’s coffee, 20% is invested into the cooperative and the washing station to improve facilities and maintain equipment.
Elections are held every three years to select the cooperative leadership. Elected officials are required to declare their land to the cooperative members as a form of accountability. Leaders are also required to be coffee producers themselves.
In the past, Ruthagati has worked closely with Sustainable Management Services (SMS) to support farmers and address issues of agricultural degradation. SMS aims to improve coffee supply chains through direct involvement and year-round provision of services to producers.
“To address issues facing farmers, SMS has established multi-stakeholder collaborations and projects with NGOs, clients and even competitors. A solid team of business agronomists from SMS work with farmers and their cooperatives as a for-profit service provider. Farmers are offered training in good agricultural practices, farm and mill-management advisory, and marketing support. Through its deep contact with farmers, SMS is able to provide credit for inputs with solid risk management. SMS has run projects with NGOs to assess climate change impacts and strategies for farmers.”
Sustainable Management Services
Ecom’s goal with SMS is to foster a competitive, diversified service platform – in Kenya and worldwide – that enables farmers and coops to increase profitability and improve quality and sustainability of the supply chain over time.”
In the long relationship Bean There has had with Ruthagati the coffee and the farmers’ lives have improved. The fluctuations in the international coffee market and the effects of climate change continue to be a concern to the producers but they will not have to worry about receiving a fair price for their coffee from Bean There.
The Kithungururu Farmers’ Cooperative Society is located near Kathingari in Embu, Kenya and has 1200 active coffee farmers. The cooperative is well known for paying the producers well above government requirements. In Kenya, coops are required by law to pay a minimum of 80% of the final coffee proceeds to the farmers. Kithungururu exceeds that by paying their members 95%! The proof of this payment is in the exceptional quality in the cup.
Bean There Coffee Company first purchased coffee from Kithungururu as the Olga’s Reserve inaugural micro-lot coffee in 2010. Only five bags of an amazing peaberry were bought and very quickly sold in South Africa. In 2011, Bean There’s Jonathan, Sarah, and Hein visited Kithungururu and presented the farmers with 48 sets of coffee farming tools from the proceeds of Olga’s Reserve.
Kithungururu was established in 1999 and has five management members. The cooperative has partnered with TechnoServe to assist with agricultural training and support. TechnoServe’s Coffee Initiative “seeks to demonstrate how specialty coffee can transform the lives of East Africa’s coffee-farming families, contribute to strong and growing industry demand, and help fuel the overall growth and development of the region.”
The efficiency and excellence of the cooperative is visible on the walls of their office which contain multiple framed certificates received for awards such as highest farmer payments, production, best management, and cleanest washing station. Kithungururu provides financial assistance to its members through low interest loans and pre-finance during the coffee season. This enables the producers to focus on their production and produce better coffee.