INSIGHT: Using coffee growing to improve livelihoods

Maraba — Sector in Huye district is the home to the internationally acclaimed Maraba Coffee. What is disheartening however is the fact that it is among the poorest sectors in the district.

Maraba — Sector in Huye district is the home to the internationally acclaimed Maraba Coffee. What is disheartening however is the fact that it is among the poorest sectors in the district.

Under Vision 2020 Umurenge initiative, each district selects the poorest sector where it concentrates on development activities. It is under this scheme that Maraba Sector was selected to benefit from government’s robust development plans.

However, it is not all gloom in this rural sector of Huye. Few enterprising individuals have decided to take the growing of coffee to a different level in order to fight poverty.

One such person is Jean Marie Vianney Safari. His story is that of courage and determination to succeed despite the many challenges faced by farmers in the coffee industry.

“I returned to Rwanda in 2002 from Burundi where I was working as a taxi driver. There was little to do in the neighborhood.

People around me were wallowing in poverty. It is around this time that the idea of growing coffee struck me,” Safari recounted.

“I had to start by preparing the land and buying coffee trees for planting from coffee nursery beds in the area. It took a lot of energy and money to make sure that the trees grew,” Safari added.

He managed to plant over 1000 coffee trees. He is now able to harvest from 700 coffee trees fetching over 1300 Kgs of coffee cherries which he sells to a cooperative, ‘Abahuzamugambi ba Kawa, Maraba at Frw130 per Kg.

Safari is no longer a needy man by all standards. He has since joined a credit and savings scheme to further his coffee business.

“Through this scheme, I can now get coffee trees for planting on credit. I can get fertilizers for which I pay Frw315 per kilogram and pesticides,” said Safari.

“I have also been given a bicycle through the project, on credit, to help in transportation of coffee to buying centres,” he adds.

The project is called, “Sustainable partnerships to enhance rural enterprise and agriculture business development.

“The bicycle worth Frw300, 000 was given to me at subsidised price of Frw80, 000 where am obliged to pay Frw5850 monthly,” added Safari.

Safari acknowledges that joining the cooperative society; ‘Abahuzamugambi ba Kawa, Maraba, was the best that has ever happened to him.

“The cooperative gives priority to families of its members when there are job openings. My wife is now employed by it. This adds to our income as a family,” said a beaming Safari as he pruned one of his coffee trees.

Safari said that he is now able to provide for his family and pay school fees for his four children. He has also decided to take on other employments to boost his in-come because he is not always tied to the coffee gardens.

Safari has set his focus high. He plans to expand his coffee plantation, build a house on his newly acquired plot of land and probably in future buy a car to transport his produce.

“The most important thing that I intend to do is ensure that my children receive quality education. That is the most important gift I can give to them,” said Safari.

Safari has his reservations too. The cost of producing coffee is high as compared to the revenue it yields. His wish is that coffee buyers like the Rwanda Small Holders Specialty Coffee Company (RWASHOSCCO) increase the money they pay for the coffee berries.

“We also need to be advised on how to improve on the quantity and quality of our coffee,” adds Safari.

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