Women coffee farmers acquire business management skills


Muhimuzi speaks during the training workshop. The women were trained in planning and budgeting in coffee production. (Michel Nkurunziza)

Rural women coffee farmer co-operatives have been advised to embrace modern business management practices, like planning, bookkeeping and budgeting, to grow their enterprises and make them sustainable.

“Coffee farmers should record every transaction or cost along the whole production chain, including pay for temporary labourers, transport, processing equipment and fuel. Otherwise, you will not know whether the businesses are making profits to become sustainable,” said Daniel Muhimuzi, the country manager of OICO Credit, a social-oriented organisation that provides funding to the SME sector.

He said coffee buyers, investors and financial institutions look at planning and budgeting as some of the critical considerations before providing credit.

Muhimuzi was speaking during a three-day workshop organised by Sustainable Harvest in Kigali as part of “Let’s Talk Coffee Best of Rwanda” event. The function brought together 100 rural women smallholder coffee farmers, and Bloomberg philanthropies, as well as top coffee buyers, financiers and NGOs from around the world.

Companies represented at the event included Marriott, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, and New Seasons Market.

Held under the theme, “Let’s talk coffee”, the workshop aimed at connecting farmers with buyers and financiers.

Women coffee farmers were also trained in business management, bookkeeping, proper crop husbandry and post-harvest handling.

Christine Condo, the Sustainable Harvest Rwanda chief executive officer, said the training also aimed at equipping the farmers with the right skills to improve quality along the value chain to make local coffee more competitive at the international market.

Speaking after the workshop, the participants said the training helped them understand the importance of embracing good business management practices, as well as using right farming methods and proper produce handling.

“We gained skills on good crop husbandry, coffee growing methods, fertiliser application and post-harvest handling.

“Besides, many of us we were not aware of the value of coffee and how it can help us fight poverty and improve our livelihood,” said Grace Umukundwa, a farmer from Kayonza District.

She testified that previous trainees under the same programme were now gaining a lot from coffee farming.

“Some farmers had even started uprooting the coffee trees, but this has since change with more people embracing the crop. That is why trainings like this are essential as farmers will acquire skills to ensure sustainable coffee production,” Umukundwa said, adding that the trainings also equip farmers with financial literacy skills.

One of female coffee farmers asking question on interest rate in financial institutions. (Michel Nkurunziza)

She said their co-operative (Tujijuke Muhinzi) will greatly benefit from the planning, budgeting and agriculture practices skills the women acquired during the training.

Umukundwa was upbeat that farmers under the programme can present their coffee trees as collateral (in some cases) to secure funding from financial institutions.

Most of the farmers at the workshop challenged banks to increase funding to the agriculture sector to spur production.

Anastase Minani from Dukunde Kawa Co-operative in Gakenke District said the co-operative has since 2000 build three coffee processing factories and a milk collection centre, which employ 90 per cent of the members.

“This shows that venturing into coffee farming is one of the ways to lift women out of poverty,” Minani said.

Sustainable Harvest Rwanda has far trained 4,000 women on coffee production since it opened shop in 2013.

Prior to the workshop, a group of coffee dealers from the US, Canada and Australia visited Rukara sector in Kayonza District, where they engaged women coffee growers in a number of modern coffee growing activities.

The delegation was led by David Griswold, the chief executive of Sustainable Harvest.