Call for local consumption of coffee in producing countries

Coffee farmers from across the country pose for a photo.

There is need for more consumption of coffee in countries where the product is predominantly grown as a way to contain the nose-diving coffee prices on the global market.

This observation was made during a three-day conference dubbed Let’s Talk Coffee Rwanda 2019, which was held in Kigali bringing together female coffee farmers, processors and buyers which came to an end on Wednesday. 

The meeting, which was supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies and Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers, seeks to connect key stakeholders in the coffee value chain to collectively see how they can improve the product but most importantly, benefit from it.   

More specifically, the meeting attracted delegates from cooperatives trained by Sustainable Growers Rwanda, representing over 32,000 women coffee farmers from Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 

During the conference, delegates were engaged in tailored workshops highlighting specific issues in the coffee industry as actors across the coffee sector coordinated strategies that seeks to address challenges that farming families are currently facing.

While addressing the delegates at the beginning of the conference, Christine Condo the Regional Director for Sustainable Growers said that the event means a lot to them and adds value to all players along the coffee value chain.

“This is an important gathering for us. It provides an opportunity for farmers and cooperatives to communicate and interact directly with local and international buyers as well as other actors such as government officials and nonprofits that support coffee farming.

“This market access segment of our programme helps farmers to understand their competitive advantages for becoming better business managers on the farm,” said Condo

This year’s Let’s Talk Coffee (LTC) allowed buyers to taste coffees at the areas of origin which saw them taste some of the best coffees from all over Rwandan regions.

The cupping tables at the event featured some of the highest-scoring coffees from Rwanda and the thrill was that many of the women who produced the coffees were in the room.

Participants tasted coffees from all of Rwanda’s growing regions prepared by professional barristers, which gave many of them an opportunity to discover new coffees.

According to one of the coffee buyers, Deborah Di Bernardo from Roast House Coffee in the United States, the conference and the coffee from Rwanda was a really good experience.

“As a coffee buyer and roaster from Washington, we look for primarily organic fairly treated coffee and where we can, women grown coffee. As a woman business owner, am always looking at supporting women.

“I heard about the conference through Sustainable Growers and Sustainable Harvest who encouraged me to meet these farmers. I buy coffee from Congo, Rwanda, Guatemala, Mexico and coming to Africa for the first time is exciting. I have tasted the coffee here and it is awesome,” said Bernado.

Betty Musaniwabo a senior barrister at Question Coffee who won the Ultimate Barrister Competition that was staged at the beginning of the LTC said that there is an increase in the number of people drinking coffee in Rwanda

“Since I joined this trade three years ago, there has been an increase in the number of Rwandese taking coffee. People’s mind set about coffee is changing and many understand the health benefits of drinking coffee and many are taking it and loving it,” said Musaniwabo.

Along with tasting coffee, the event featured talks highlighting specific issues concerning coffee in Rwanda, including local solutions to global coffee price crises, supporting women coffee growers around the globe, stabilizing family income through crop diversification, managing the family finances, how to tackle issues of climate change, access to finance and building social enterprise through philanthropy and industry partnership.   

Sustainable Growers Rwanda is a local nonprofit organisation that aligns with government initiatives to improve productivity, quality, and build market access for the coffee sector. 

Since 2014, Sustainable Growers Rwanda has worked in 13 districts and supported 77 cooperatives, 25 coffee washing stations, and 32,233 farming families. Since its inception, Bloomberg Philanthropies has funded this training through the Relationship Coffee Institute, recently renamed Sustainable Growers.

Ruth Coleman, the Executive Director of Sustainable Growers global headquarters said; “Let's Talk Coffee is an important part of our overall training program: it's a chance to bring coffee professionals and farmers together. We are grateful to our funder Bloomberg Philanthropies and our partner Sustainable Harvest for their longstanding support of this program."  Said Coleman 

 Let’s Talk Coffee Rwanda serves as both an educational opportunity for farmers and buyers to learn more about each other’s role in the coffee supply chain and a celebration of the hard work being done at origin to improve coffee quality and realize the full potential of Rwandan coffee.