Archive for the ‘Coffee farm’ Category

Dirt Road into the future coffee farm

Yesterday was an amazing day. I had the opportunity to travel with David and Joseph and their friend Joel (pronounced “Joe-el”) out to the traditional family area in the Kerio Valley where Joseph and Joel grew up. They are planning to start an organic coffee farm in the jungly hills ascending from the valley; a farm that the whole community will be participating in to some extent.


A devout and godly man, Joel had lived and studied in the United States and is a professor at Moi University. Before he went to the States, he promised God that after he received his education, he would return to Kenya to help his people. He was true to his word, even after being offered a green card and a nice job in the States. I really enjoyed getting to know this humble and interesting man who was full of information about the Kerio Valley.

Amazing Tree

The Kerio Valley is a part of the larger Great Rift Valley that is almost 4,000 miles long, running from Syria to Mozambique. The Jordan River actually begins in the northernmost area of the Rift Valley, as does the Sea of Galilee. This explains why there are traces of a Judeo tradition and ethic that has been a part of the traditional cultures of the Rift Valley peoples for countless generations. Many of the tribes practiced circumcision, and had other biblical practices. The word “Kerio” actually evolved from the Kalenjin word “keiyo” meaning, “the people who give life.” These life-giving people migrated from Sudan over 2,000 years ago, and their oral history traces them back to ancient Egypt. (Thanks, Joel and Wikipedia!)

Sun in the papaya trees

The whole valley really has a “life giving” feeling. The valley floor is a lush desert and as one ascends upwards, the incredibly fertile land yields just about anything you would plant in it. An executive from the Kenya Coffee Board recently assessed the land and the soil and said it was an exceptional area for growing coffee.

medicinal plant used to treat asthma

The people plant millet on the terraced hills, and there is also a wide variety of medicinal plants, as well as fruits like mangoes and bananas growing prolifically. Joel told me that this area was a place that barren women and impotent men would come to be healed; thus the name “the life giving” valley.

Maybe that is part of the reason that I love it down there so much. Literally every time I go into that valley, it is like something opens up and relaxes on the inside of me. The cliffs also remind me a tiny bit of Oak Creek Canyon, near Sedona–as well as Hawaii.

Cliffs shrouded by clouds

My friends explained to me that the Kerio Valley has become to most Kenyans, a place to get away from. In modern times, the beauty of the valley has been overshadowed by its poverty and lack of clean water–quite tragic really, when one considers that in addition its other natural resources, the Valley also has oil, platinum, and other precious gems that have not been mined. (God, I hope no mining company comes in there and destroys all that beauty–surely there is a way to extract natural resources without destroying everything beautiful along the way).

Apparently an oil company is coming in to begin mining in another part of the valley, where David is from. Our concern is that they will not fairly share the profit with the people who live there, whose land it is. Even Libya is trying to get in on the oil. (“Oil Libya” is one of the main gas stations in Africa. I saw it in Niger, and it is also here in Kenya).

young boy at work

After getting down into the Valley, we took a dirt road off the highway that led us to Joseph’s childhood hometown. Cars are very infrequent here, and the dirt roads are more likely to be populated with sleeping cattle and prancing goats than anything with wheels.

butterflies on ground

Along the way, we passed through several large swarms of butterflies, all blue, yellow and white. We had to stop the car several times just to get out and walk in their midst (like walking through a whisper of a gentle tornado of fluttering flower petals). We were even able to get a few pictures of them on the ground.

After travelling a while, we took an even more primitive dirt road, which made the previous one seem like a highway. This new road was recently made by the community—the old fashioned way—by hand, using hoes. I have no idea how many cars have actually driven down it.

Slowly following a herd of goats on the primitive road

We slowly climbed the escarpment until we reached the end of the road, where the terraced farming begins; still well below the sheer cliffs above.

Planting millet with her grandmother

Women—ranging from grandmas to children–were planting millet, each in their traditional family plot that has been theirs for untold generations.

Each plot is marked off by stone boundaries which have not been moved for over 1,000 years. The family plots were originally created by one member of the family throwing a stone behind him as far as he could throw it. Where it landed was the first stone in the boundary line of that particular piece of property.

Ancient stone boundary

Joel found his family plot, which will be part of the coffee farm, in addition to the surrounding hills that are currently not being cultivated, according to the will and vote of the community.

Boys in the burned wood

The whole area had been recently cleared by burning. While we waited there for the village chief to meet with us, I wandered around and met some of the people. Without a doubt, I was the first white person that some of the kids had ever seen, and several times during the day, I made babies cry simply by showing up! The people speak Kalenjin first, and a bit of Swahili after that. A few spoke some English. Somehow we managed to communicate a bit.

After we left the terraced farms, we began to descend back into the valley. About halfway down, we stopped at a farm, where a man had agreed to use a large portion of his uncultivated land for coffee seedlings.


He had a beautiful little farmhouse, with three girls weeding maize in the yard, one of them with a little baby tied to her back. (This particular baby screamed and hid his face from me. I never even got to see what he looked like!)

Farmer’s daughters

Farmer and I

The farmer and I became great friends as I chattered in the little Swahili that I have picked up. He loved seeing pictures of him and his children on my camera.

Village kids

I also met a lot of children and village women up on the road above his house.

The girl with the red collar is named Daisy

Kids were running down the road making all kinds of noise. When I asked my friends what they were being so loud about, I was told that they were yelling and screaming about a white person being in their midst. Eventually they gathered around me, along with their mothers.


One friendly lady named Scholar was especially talkative and obviously prophetically named since she spoke more English than anyone else there!

When we made it back down to the village, David, Joseph and Joel gathered with the chief and village elders under a large tree. They sat there for several hours as different ones took turns speaking and presenting their views and questions.

Elder’s meeting under the tree

Everyone was excited about the prospects of having the coffee farm in their midst. I sat in the meeting for a while, but since I didn’t understand anything, I decided to explore around the community.

A glorified ant hill

I met more beautiful children and was finally able to look inside a small termite mound (the heat wafting out of that thing could cook a meal!)

Tobacco lady

I sat with this old lady under a tree for a while. She had a small plastic container tucked inside her hat. During our “conversation,” she pulled out the container, and poured some brown powder into her hand, which she then sniffed up her nose. I found out later it was tobacco.

I also met a young college student named Carol who was home visiting her family from a university in Nairobi. She invited me into their little café and took me back into their yard.

Carol and siblings with hand-made bricks

After feeding me a hot chapatti and introducing me to her younger siblings, she showed me the bricks that they make and sell and gave me some mangoes from their trees. I went back to the car and brought her some small Italian almond cookies that I had found at the grocery store (quite a treat–those are some of my favorite cookies). Soon, I was sharing the bag with everyone around there; young and old.

When I came back to the Meeting Under The Tree, it was winding down, so I sat in on the rest of it. I was privileged to be asked share a word with the group and close it in prayer, so I spoke and prayed out of the love of God that was burning in my heart for them.


After the meeting, a young lady came up to me—the only other woman who had attended the meeting, or at least part of it. I immediately had such a love for her. She shared with me that she was a single mother trying to raise her two children alone and in desperate need of a job to take care of her kids and maybe save some money to go to school. She was wondering if the coffee farm would hire her. I introduced her to my friends and they told her to check back next month. I saw a strength in her that would not be held back; a beautiful boldness in her heart. We prayed together under the tree. I hope I see her again next month…Please pray for her. Her name is Karen.

After we left the village gathering, we had another appointment to keep. There is a local farmer who is already growing some coffee in his jungle-farm, so we went to check it out.

The enchanted entrance

After parking the truck, we hiked on a tiny trail through some beautiful terrain, until we came around the corner to the most magical entrance to any property that I have ever seen.Hidden under and large natural arch of overgrown pink and white and yellow flowers was a tiny gate made of sticks that you had to duck down to enter.

In the coffee farm jungle

After entering the enchanted gate, we found ourselves in a virtual jungle, all damp and shadowy with coffee plants randomly growing everywhere. (I hope this farmer is getting good money for his organic, shade grown coffee from the fertile Kerio valley, but the looks of things kinda told me otherwise).

There were all kinds of other edible plants back there, including a profusion of mulberries, which we snacked on as we walked.

Porcupine quills

This farmer had a cute little son who solemnly followed us around. After we warmed up to each other, he began chattering in Kalenjin to me. I could tell he was wanting me to follow him, and so we left the group. He took me up a little hill, and showed me his cool treasure—a pile of huge porcupine quills. He generously gave one to me, which I am keeping for a memento. I don’t know how that little boy knew that I would like to see something like that, but I am glad he did!

Steps leading up to restaurant

By the time we got back in the truck it was almost dark and we were starving. Amazingly enough, there is a nice restaurant/hotel in the area—the only one for miles. It was started by a former UN Ambassador from Kenya to Australia and Europe. This man built a really nice place in homeland, and if I lived in that valley I would go there often to eat—it has the best “nyama choma” (roasted goat) that I have had since I have been here. Usually nyama choma is so tough I don’t know how people even chew it, but this was tender and delicious. We also ate a big plate of ugali and kachumbari.

We were all every excited and satisfied with the events of the day and felt the Lord’s blessing and presence with us throughout. I really think our coffee is going to be some of the best in the world. The soil is mineral rich and the climate is perfect. Our coffee will be organic and shade grown—and tended to by a wonderful community of people from the “life giving valley.” I can’t wait to drink a cup of it!  ~Mercy Aiken

More photos from the day:

African Dog

Another Ordinary Daisy

Beautiful smile

beautiful young girl

Big sister and baby brother

Burned wood

Ripening coffee beans

Grandma farmer

Strong young woman

Man with dog

David, Joseph and Joel speaking with the Chief on the mountain

Eating a tuber

Farming girls


Peeking through the fence

With the kiddos

Flower covered tree

Site of future coffee farm

I am never one to turn down a nice stem

Snacking on mulberries

A village eldeer

Village elder

Village elder

Sad puppy

Tobacco lady


Mud shack

Joel, Joseph and David (speaking) at meeting under tree

Scared baby

David eating off the land

These chickens had strange-looking red necks

Cute building in town

Cows sleeping on road

The tall man is the Chief

Porcupine quill boy

Some things are sadly ubiquitous

Some things are ubiquitous

Termite Castle

I love her yellow dress


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