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The coffee woman

As the cock crows early in the morning ,even without looking at her “mulika mwizi phone’ mama Mboi knows it is five in the morning , time for her day to begin . She prepares Mboi and his siblings and sets them off for school. In their patched up otherwise clean uniform that sort of looks like all the colours of the rainbow came in unison to sing the national anthem, off to school they run.

That uniform was bought when some direct buyers had purchased their coffee three years ago, then the coffee farmers had a little pocket change, some goats were slaughtered that Christmas, chapati and chicken was in plenty, during the Christmas mass the church was full…

The auction system that is mostly used to sell the farmers coffee is like come we stay union, no commitments, no nothings ,majorly and quite often, disappointments!

She then returns to tidy up the house and sweep the compound. She silently prays they are not send back home for activity fee otherwise they will have to stay at home for several days.

Talking of mulika mwizi , I once had this mulika mwizi phone that was snatched somewhere at Ronald Ngala street. Those pick pockets must hold a phd in pick pocketing! They are terrific. I did not see the one who took it or even his hand. In a split of a second I was phoneless and mteja! Down town is no joke! especially when you suffer from upcountry syndrome…

Upcountry is good though. City life is chaotic, the traffic jams are nightmares, they can make you get a heart attack or something closer.

Between city life and farm life in upcountry, all factors remaining constant I would pick the latter.

The factors are not constant though so the reality is much different and that is why most of us have had to leave the serene, spacious and less polluted environment and found ourselves in the city, indulging here, indulging there, hustling here, hustling there. Hustle is the name of the game, ask baba nanii…

The gods had been kind and the rains had fallen in abundance the previous night. For sure when the gods smile good things do happen but when they don’t, its God help us!

The sound of frogs croaking in water pods is sweet music to the ears. The smell of the fresh wet soil is heavenly,all the pregnant mothers might be holding a soil tasting kamukunji soon (lol). Too bad she does not have a water tank to store clean water for drinking and other house chores, if she had, she would let her back rest at least a little from the many tiresome trips to the river.

After breakfast of leftovers from yester night  and strong tea, ‘strungi’ she sets off to the river.  If you love last night left overs like me…they always seem to have more sweetness that wasn’t there when you ate that same food the night before. Maybe be it is because of the little fermentation that happens through the night, I cannot tell for sure.

Fermentation seems to be a good thing, in coffee processing I am told some fermentation must happen for perfect results…

On top of the river being quite far away It is a sloppy climb on her way back from the river. She has to be careful lest she fall and break her water can or soil her dress, the last piece of soap she had, had been used to wash her children’s school uniform.

Life is funny. When there is plenty of water there is no soap and the vise versa is not far from truth(you can replace soap with anything else). What irony! Why can’t we have all we want at the same time but I’m told life could be so boring, it’s the challenges in it that make life interesting and I can’t agree more.

She steadily hurries home to find her husband whom she left soundly asleep has already left. She puts the digging fork on her shoulder and sets off to the farm. She has to do some digging on her coffee farm when the land is still soft so as to increase the rate of flowering, her target is high production this season.

Last season had been horrible, the rains were scarce and most coffee berries had fallen off before maturity, it seems climate change is catching up with us steadily. The prices had been nothing to write home about either, but as they always do, they keep hope alive.

As she uproots the weeds, she will be applying some fertilizer she got on loan from the co-operative society ,it is not enough but it will have to be when mixed with the  waste from her three goats that she has been piling up. “In any case the less chemicals the better ,Isn’t it ?.” she silently consoles herself.

As she works on her farm she cannot help but wonder if the coffee returns will be enough to cater for her family and more so buy her children new school uniform and shoes. The last time she bought herself a new dress was three years ago and it was for a relatives wedding. It has since then been her uniform every Sunday and market day, and any other event that pops up once in a while.

By lunch hour the sun is quite blazing so she sets off for home. She gulps two cups of water and rests under the shade of an avocado tree at her compound. Not that she is fasting but she skips most lunches for the sake of the evening meal.

As she sits there a campaign vehicle passes by the road, loud music blaring from its speakers, if she understood the queens language she would have heard shaggy in his deep baritone, “She’l puts a smile upon your face, and take to that higher place, so don’t you underestimate,, strength of a woman…”

She stretches out her neck without standing and notices that it is a land rover,she had heard her son mention it the other day. ‘It looks new and costly’. She notes.

The sound on the speaker insists on how the person being campaigned for will turn the area to be ‘the garden of Eden’ in his first year in office. She has heard that enough times so she doesn’t bulge.

She has to get back to her coffee farm and hope for the best since so many mouths depend on her to feed. She doesn’t have a choice, or does she?

She untethers her three goats and moves them to a different place with more pasture, gives them water before proceeding back to her coffee farm.

The thought of her grown up children, educated and in good jobs motivates her to work even harder. Maybe one day they will come home and park a car outside, just like her immediate neighbor’s son does, it wouldn’t matter whether it’s for hire or not, a car is a car and neighbors will look at her in awe.

She will take the children for a stroll in the coffee farm as she proudly showcases the blossoming coffee trees…

The children will be taking photos of the coffee trees and their mother smiling holding a branch of one of them, post them on social media hash tagging

#coffeemanenos  #coffeeisbae #womanincofee  #strengthofawoman

Probably later she will go to the big city(Nairobi) with them, there she might have a great cup of coffee in one of those famous coffee shops “tasting the feeling”




6 thoughts on “The coffee woman

  1. It gives the vivid picture of most women in Kenyan villages. Reminds me of my own mother back in the day. Kenyan women! We are the epitome of true strength and hope. Keep them coming mutosh.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice capture on the Kenyan coffee farmer experience. To handle this desperate situation the current coffee farmer needs to be brought into reality of diversification of income generation avenues, food security and health safety.

    Alliance of Women in coffee (IWCA-Kenya Chapter), recognises that Coffee has made majority of us what we are today but due to the diminishing land sizes and coffee production per unit area, coffee farming is becoming a less profitable enterprise and can no longer support the household needs. Auction or no auction it is the quantity and quality that defines the coffee returns.
    Diversification of household income sources and provision for food security measures are key to overcoming the strangles and create confidence in coffee as a household enterprises among others

    Liked by 1 person

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