When a group of Holy Ghost Fathers arrived in Kenya in 1899 from France to set up a mission, it brought more than the word of God.
When a group of Holy Ghost Fathers arrived in Kenya in 1899 from France to set up a mission, it brought more than the word of God. The fathers, who founded Saint Austin's mission in Nairobi, brought coffee beans and 75 years later their foresight has given Kenya its biggest export earner.
The 75th anniversary of the founding of the Mission was celebrated in Nairobi on Tuesday (28 May) with a service in the Mission attended by the country's leading church dignitaries.
The Saint Austin Fathers' Mission, besides spreading the word of God, was to experiment with different crops to provide food for the local people. The first mention of coffee is in the dairy kept by the fathers. The entry on November 8th, 1900 says that excellent rains made the 100 coffee trees brought from Europe flourish. The crop quickly increased and four years later the mission was able to export three and a half thousand coffee plants. In November 1904 the first coffee pulping machine was brought to Kenya and by January 1909 a local blend of coffee was winning prizes within Africa and overseas.
Coffee soon became the mainstay of the Kenya economy and many large plantations started. Saint Austin had served its purpose and the coffee trees disappeared from its grounds. The Mission turned its attention to educational work. But to mark the 75th anniversary 100 coffee trees were planted on the original plateau where the story started.