Rwanda ‘Coffee Lifeline’ project scoops award

LONDON – A project that uses energy’s wind-up and solar-powered radios to provide Rwandan coffee farmers with access to important coffee-growing data has won a prestigious award in London.
A coffee farmer in Kibuye (File Photo)
A coffee farmer in Kibuye (File Photo)

LONDON – A project that uses energy’s wind-up and solar-powered radios to provide Rwandan coffee farmers with access to important coffee-growing data has won a prestigious award in London.

The project referred to as, ‘Coffee Lifeline Project’ was awarded the ‘Specialty Coffee Association of America’s (SCAA) 2010 Sustainability Award early this week.

Lifeline Energy a company that focuses on reducing energy poverty for the extremely poor by engaging the community, said the project won because it provides Rwandan coffee farmers with access to important coffee-growing, health, weather and market price information even in the remote hills of the country’s coffee growing egions.

Additionally, the project produces a coffee-specific, agricultural extension radio programme, Imbere Heza, ‘Bright Future’ which is broadcasted nationwide by the National University of Rwanda’s Radio Salus station. Approximately 200,000 coffee farmers listen to Imbere Heza each month. 

Coffee Lifeline is the brainchild of coffee trader Peter Kettler, who approached Lifeline Energy after discovering that most rural coffee farmers did not know the price of coffee beans on the world market.

Coffee is the second-most traded commodity in the world, after crude oil.

“Years ago, sustainability was identified primarily as concern for the environment,” said Mr. Kettler in a statement.

“We now think of sustainability as it addresses a whole range of issues facing not only the farmer, but also his family and the community in which he lives. Coffee Lifeline can address numerous aspects of sustainability including food security, economic stability, health and education, as well as clean water and healthy soil,” he added. 

Worldwide, education and accurate information are key to escaping poverty and achieving economic progress. In sub-Saharan Africa, radio remains the primary means of mass communication.  However, the World Bank states that only 1 percent of the rural population in Rwanda has access to electricity. 

Most farm families earn less than $300 per year and cannot afford to purchase transistor radio batteries on an ongoing basis. Self-powered Lifeline radios solve the problem by providing access on demand. 

“Coffee farmers have told us that the growing techniques and advice they learn from the radio have helped them grow higher-quality coffee beans, which in turn will increase income and enable more farm families to send their children to school,” said Michelle Riley, external  affairs director of Lifeline Energy.

“We are grateful to SCAA for honouring Coffee Lifeline with the 2010 Sustainability Award, and we accept it on behalf of the thousands of coffee farmers in Rwanda who are working to make their coffee the best in the world.”

The SCAA award was created in 2003 to promote, encourage and honour the efforts of those serving as role models in the field of sustainability.

Projects must expand and promote sustainable practices while achieving one or more of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, which focus on tackling the worldwide battle against poverty, illiteracy, hunger, lack of education, gender inequality, child and maternal mortality, disease and environmental degradation.

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