A history of coffee production in Kiambu county of Central Kenya, 1912 -1978
Ndirangu, Paul Njaramba
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This research examines the history of coffee production in Kiambu County between 1912 and 1978 basing on three objectives; to investigate the origin and development of coffee production in Kiambu County from 1912-1950, to examine the role of Africans in coffee production in Kiambu County from 1950-1963 and analyse the contribution of coffee production to the economic transformation of Kiambu County from 1963-1978. Coffee growing was introduced by the Missionaries and later on adopted by the white settlers. Africans duty was to provide labour as the whites reaped handsomely at their expense as shown through the use of dependency theory. This research was carried out in Githunguri and Gatundu constituencies of Kiambu County using both primary and secondary data. A total of 15 informants comprising of both gender of varying ages were interviewed. The research established that, despite coffee production among Africans being prohibited, by 1930s Chief Koinange had made unsuccessful attempts to plant the coffee trees. To appease Africans after the outbreak of the Mau Mau rebellion in 1952, the colonial government was more than willing to accommodate Africans demands, though with conditions in order to pacify the settlers. Spirited campaign by African chiefs for the lifting of the ban had at last materialised. It was thus not surprising that the first beneficiaries of coffee production among Africans were the chiefs and headmen as established by this research. Reforms were undertaken by the colonial government under the Swynnerton Plan of 1954 which involved land consolidation and issuance of title deeds. Cash crop growing increasingly became lucrative as compared to other economic activities. Africans engaged in coffee production in both large scale and small scale and later on joined co-operatives to market their produce. Through the proceeds from coffee production Africans were able to transform their social economic well being. A number of challenges however, began to bedevil coffee production in Kiambu, corruption and poor leadership not only in factories but also at societal level dented the economic glory that had been associated with coffee production.