Kibirigwi is a small area next to the Ragati river along the A2 highway. The Mukangu Coffee Factory lies within Kirinyaga, just over the county border from the host of the largest open air market in Kenya, Karatina, south of Mount Kenya. Established back in 1964, it serves the Mukangu, Kairimi, Gatondo and Gitumbi villages and is affiliated with the Kibirigwi FCS. In this area there is a biennial production cycle with the main crop following the ‘long’ rains of March to May, with the short rains and fly crop occurring between October and December.
Members of the cooperative work with the local coffee research station to control the agronomic practices in the area. Seeds are selected and grown as per recommendations, and technical advice is offered through farmer training programs as well as field visits offered by the Ministry of Agriculture. A field committee exists to follow up, conducting site visits and ensuring standards are maintained. This includes a controlled intercropping with macadamia being allowed but maize and beans not, to ensure the plants are not competing for the same nutrients.
Coffee is picked and promptly delivered as cherry to the factory for wet processing. Water is used for both pulping and recirculation with the coffee being pulped and then stored overnight, washed again and then soaked before being spread out to dry on raised beds. The parchment is frequently turned to ensure even drying, with any defects being removed before full sorting and
storage prior to delivery.
K7 is widely used in modern breeding programs in Kenya, and stems from the old French Mission trees related to the Bourbon genetic group. In 1936, a selection was made from the Legetet Estate in Muhorohi, to the west of the country. Selections were further tested in the 1960’s to find a resistance to rust, with K7 out yielding other varieties at the time, whilst still maintaining a ‘clean’ cup profile.
This resistance like all other current varietals has now faded to tolerance, with rust believed to have finally broken down known genetic resistance in early 2019.