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Rwanda, coffee haven emerging from a dark past
(Original article curated from green times)
The tiny country of Rwanda is beautiful. Trapped between Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda is a country of green hills, mighty volcanos, dense forests, and the vast Lake Kivu.
Known as the “land of a thousand hills”, its population of 11.7 million is squeezed into 26,338 km2 of land. Rwanda has experienced its share of trauma and heartache. In 1994, an intense genocide took place killing almost 1 million people in 90 days. The country was decimated, destroyed, and in deep pain.
22 years of recovery and positive changes
As the nation mourned, Paul Kagame became president and began the arduous task of rebuilding. 22 years have passed and the positive changes in Rwanda are exceptional. The country has united in a common desire to move on and move up and together they have established a growing economy, developed a healthy agricultural sector, and invited the world’s tourists to experience the beauty and diversity of Rwanda.
Rwanda’s fertile soil and consistent climate offers excellent conditions for growing coffee. Coffee accounts for 75% of Rwanda’s export income and is cultivated throughout the country. There are approximately 450,000 small-scale coffee farmers in Rwanda producing what is referred to as “specialty coffee”. Rwandan coffees regularly perform well in international competitions and the market share continues to increase. The Rwandan government has invested in the development and sustainability of the coffee industry and it is a sector that continues to grow and improve.
Bean There Coffee Company began purchasing coffee from Rwanda in 2008. Uncovering a light fruity aroma with lively acidity and delightful body the coffee displays creamy, toffee flavours. The coffee is produced by the Dukunde Kawa Cooperative in Musasa which was established in 2004. The cooperative started with 300 farmers and now has 2,147 of which 640 are women. Dukunde Kawa is Fairtrade Certified and is an integral part of the Musasa community. Dukunde Kawa supplies coffee to several prominent international roasters including Starbucks, Thanksgiving Coffee, Intelligentsia, Union Hand Roasters, Sustainable Harvest, and Roastmasters.
NGOs club together to improve quality and quantity
They have also partnered with various NGO’s to improve the quality and quantity of their coffee including Root Capital, USAID, Responsibility, and Shared Interest. The cooperative has three washing stations which cumulatively produce eight containers of coffee annually. There are 100 red cherry collection stations throughout the region. Dukunde Kawa is part of the larger Rwanda Small-Holder Specialty Coffee Company (RWASHOCCO) which assists with coffee processing, marketing, and logistics.
Dukunde Kawa is extremely involved and invested in the Musasa community and has established several programs and operations which are making exciting developments. The cooperative has donated 142 cows to members of the community. These cows are valuable for fertilizer and milk. As a result, Dukunde Kawa set up a milk pasteurization centre which has created jobs and birthed a new trade industry. The cooperative built a grain mill for the community’s use. A basket weaving project has also been established therefore creating jobs and strengthening the local economy.
The cooperative invests heavily in farmer training and education holding annual meetings covering farming, quality, general coffee knowledge, certifications, and cooperative information. Dukunde Kawa works with international NGOs to secure loans for school fees and medical expenses for their farmers. Recently, the cooperative used their Fairtrade premiums to build and equip a dry mill on their property which is used to process coffee. This has reduced the costs of production and transport and has created meaningful work for many Rwandans. Dukunde Kawa is a cooperative not only invested in their coffee farmers but also the community at large and they are making a sustainable difference in the lives of many Rwandans.
Agronomy training pays off in more than doubling income for family
A Dukunde Kawa farmer, John Bosco, and his wife, Emeritte, have three children, Adeline, Adrienne, and Yves. They have approximately 470 coffee trees. In 2013 he produced 722kg coffee cherries. In 2014 his production was 900kg and in 2015 he produced 1200kg. The increase in quantity is a direct result of the agronomy training he has received from the cooperative. John Bosco has seen his income more than double in three years which has made a significant difference in his life and the life of his family.
Bean There Coffee Company purchases approximately 20 tons of Rwanda Musasa coffee each year and it has become a favourite among South African coffee drinkers. Bean There has visited the Dukunde Kawa cooperative several times and is always encouraged to see the country, coffee, and community development. When you choose to drink Rwanda Musasa coffee you are making a direct investment in the lives of Rwandan coffee farmers and their families.