A trip to Mikuba is something to look forward to. The hill is flanked by the Ruvubu, a river known for its deep waters. Mikuba is a stone’s throw away from Heza Washing Station, but stretches out, far and wide. Some farmers walk only a couple of meters to deliver their cherries to the washing station; others have to walk more than 5km to reach it. The hill is usually covered in bright blue and yellow flowers that line its narrow dirt walking paths. Forests of acacia trees also cover the landscape. Patches of tomatoes, sweet potato, cabbage, cassava and peas lined by the tall stalks of wheat and maize wrap the hill in every imaginable shade of gold and green. Canopies of banana trees are planted alongside coffee, creating a cooler environment for the coffee to grow in.
Switch-backing up mountainsides and across small, hand-built log bridges, visiting Heza Washing Station in the Kayanza province at 1960masl can be likened to an off-road adventure. To say Heza Washing Station is ‘remote’ would be an understatement and yet the community that lives in the surrounding hills is a special one, comprised mostly of coffee farmers. Heza means ‘beautiful place’ in Kirundi, the local language of Burundi. With panoramic views and an ever-changing East African sky, this washing station lives up to its name.
The Karindundu factory is located in the lowland region of Mt. Kenya, 1 km from the town of Karatina in Kenya’s Nyeri district. There are a total of 513 active members (349 male, 164 female) contributing to annual production, each with an average of 300 trees and 0.5 acres. Farmers grow macadamia, banana, maize, and beans near their coffee. After harvesting their ripe cherries, farmers deliver them to Karindundu where they undergo a traditional washed process. Coffee is de-pulped, fermented overnight, washed, and then placed on raised beds where it dries to a stable level. Karindundu helps to support the contributing farmers by advising the use of farm manure, pruning, and applying fertilizer. They also maintain a demonstration plot where these methods can be seen and better understood.
Coffee in Kenya is typically traceable down to the factory, or mill level: Most farmers own between 1/8 to 1/4 of a hectare, and often grow crops other than coffee as well, which means they rely on a central processing unit for sale and processing of their coffee. Producers deliver in cherry form to a factory, where the cooperative will sort, weigh, and issue payment for the delivery. The coffee is then blended with the rest of the day's deliveries and goes on to be processed. Because of this system, which serves many hundreds to several thoughts of smallholder farmers per factory, there is limited traceability down to the individual producers whose coffee comprises the lots.
Nyeri is situated between Mt. Kenya and the Aberadare Mountains, creating a perfect geographic and climactic area for coffee production. This area is historically the center of Kenya's coffee production due to the rich soil and fresh water moving through the area from the mountains. This region is home to the Kikuyu people, who have resided between the mountains for centuries. This area is rich with forests, wildlife, eucalyptus, bamboo, and rainforests.