“BBI Ruling Leaves Kenya at a Crossroads” blog post by Michelle Gavin at Council on Foreign Relations “Africa in Transition“. [Ed. note: Michelle Gavin was also handling the Africa program at CFR during the fraudulent 2007 election and ensuing crisis. Non-resident fellow Jendayi Frazer, of course, was Asst. Secretary of State during the election and crisis. Between the two there is unusually intimate institutional memory for the Council on Foreign Relations, along with the related competing interests associated with the connections.]
I may be overdue to write about the problems with current Standard Gauge Railroad project and the latest on the Rift Valley Railroad saga, and of course the new payments by the Kenyan government on the alleged debts from the Anglo Leasing scandal are crying out for more attention. And there is the critical issue in Kenya of the Turkana drought. But I’m more overdue to write about some good people doing good things that can actually make a positive difference and I need to gush a bit about a great experience I’ve had this week.
Since I have been involved in political controversy and deal with sensitive topics here, I avoid writing about my old friends who are working in Kenya in missionary or development work because I don’t want to unintentionally create any association with my personal political views. But this week, I have gotten a chance to meet and start to get acquainted with a Kenyan couple here in Florida who are doing exciting things in trade and business and humanitarian mission, and we connected through coffee here in the U.S., not through anything political, so I think I can give them a little plug without giving them any “guilt by association”.
Growers Alliance was started by Martin and Purity who grew up on separate coffee farms in Kenya. After moving to live in the United States, they were shocked to see $4 latte cups while coffee growers back in their Kenyan village earn a meager 15 cents for a whole pound of their harvest green coffee beans. In a twist of luck and coincidence, Martin and Purity met each other for the first ever at a coffee conference in Seattle. After discovering each other’s passion (and romance ….we have a beautiful son whose name is Steve) in highlighting the plight of the poor coffee growers in Kenya, they decided to start their own coffee company that would be different from any other. They formed Growers Alliance which is perhaps the only coffee company in America that is owned by actual coffee growers and whose goal is to cut out the several unnecessary middle men and coffee cartels. This helps to empower the poor coffee growers with better prices for their coffee crop and better living standards.
They have been at this for several years now and have really made progress. The Growers Alliance Kenya coffee is sold at Whole Foods and at the major Southeastern U.S. regional supermarket chains Publix and Winn Dixie (the picture above is from the shelf at my local Winn Dixie store).
Beyond the coffee business, which seems exactly the kind of thing that Kenyans need for sustainable steady improvement in economic circumstances, Martin and Purity are engaged in charitable enterprises that have “synergies” with Growers Alliance. First, Growers Alliance drills and maintains artesian wells in areas near coffee farms in Embu to provide safe water. The second is unique and deserves some explanation.
Martin was looking at the opportunity to return ship something from the U.S. to Kenya after the import of the coffee. This ultimately turned into a dialysis clinic in Naivasha, stocked with refurbished machines donated by a foundation in the United States. Unfortunately as Martin and Purity came to learn from their close interaction with the farming communities back home, diabetes and hypertension are increasing with changes in diet and lifestyle in Kenya, not just in the cities, but in the villages as well. With lack of early diagnosis and treatment, this leads to kidney damage and a growing critical need for dialysis–outstripping the facilities available from the public health infrastructure. Martin’s parents who were living in the U.S. returned to Kenya to run the clinic.