Evolution and Growth of Coffee Cooperative Societies in Kipkelion, Kericho County, Kenya: 1923 – 2012
Soy, Irene Chelangat
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The coffee cooperative sector by tradition has been organized into cooperatives in order to enhance its effectiveness and facilitate regulation. Cooperatives account for an estimated 65 percent of the coffee sector in Kenya. However in the last two decades beginning 1990, in the era of liberalization the ability of the coffee cooperative societies to deliver economic value to its members has raised a lot of concerns and debate. This is mainly because, coffee production declined by 61% in the cooperative sector between 1988 and 1998. Numerous studies have revealed that the coffee cooperative sector as the most mishandled and unproductive. Whether this is true or not required studies of this notion. It was therefore, pertinent to examine the state of coffee cooperative societies in Kipkelion, Kericho County given that Kipkelion was a colonial settlement and the origin of the first cooperative movement in Kenya. This study focused on evolution and growth of coffee cooperative societies in Kipkelion, Kericho County from the period 1923 – 2012. The study traced the emergence of coffee cooperative societies in Kipkelion, Kericho County during the colonial period to 1963; Secondly, it examined the growth and the transformation of the coffee cooperative societies in period of 1964 – 1980 and lastly, it analyzed the effects of Structural Adjustment Programmes and liberalization in the coffee cooperative societies in Kipkelion, Kericho county in the period between 1991 and 2012. Group theory and collective action theory were used with a view to analyze coffee cooperative emergence, growth and transformation. Historical research design was used in the study in which both qualitative and quantitative approaches were used in data collection and analysis. The study was carried out in Kipkelion, Kericho County and covered the areas of Chepkechei, Muhoroni, Forttenan, Koisagat, and Kapngetuny. Purposive sampling and convenience sampling techniques were applied in the selection of the target population. This enabled the researcher to collect data from different respondents. Primary and secondary sources of data were utilized Data analysis was done by organizing data into concepts, themes and periods. Ethical considerations were adhered to. The findings revealed that coffee cooperatives in Kipkelion have their origin in the colonial era. The African participation in the cooperative sector was little before independence due to settler dominance. The attainment of independence brought about social, economic and political changes in Kenya. Key was the structural changes in smallholder agriculture that included land ownership that consequently transformed the coffee sub-sector. On the other hand, liberalization of the coffee sector in the 1990s exposed coffee factories to competition among themselves and other firms which was resulting from entrance of new firms into the coffee sector. Moreover, factories have been obliged to streamline their operations to cope with competition. Farmers on the other hand have been playing a significant role in decision-making on matters affecting their societies and in the management of their societies and factories through elected representatives. This study is significant to the government, policymakers, researchers and coffee cooperatives especially in regard to understanding origin, growth and historical transformation of coffee cooperatives in Kipkelion and in comprehending the effects of liberalization on the coffee cooperatives. This study is anticipated to lay foundation for future research on the history of coffee cooperatives in Kericho County.