Huye District residents are expecting bumper harvests of coffee following a coffee extension programme in the district.
The move, which seeks to increase areas covered by coffee in the district, is expected to help generate more revenue for farmers, increase productivity, raise household income as well as quality of local coffee, among others
Huye is one of the major producers of coffee in the country and is mainly known for the Maraba coffee brand which recently penetrated the international specialty coffee market.
The Maraba coffee extension programme targets to grow coffee on at least 2,100 hectares–with hope that the investment will help boost both quality and quantity of coffee produce.
The four-year programme, which started two years ago, focuses on extending coffee plantations, mainly in the areas of Maraba, Simbi and Kigoma.
So far, over 1,550 hectares have been planted and the remaining area will be planted next fiscal year, according to Huye District mayor Kayiranga Muzuka Eugene.
Farmers are expecting the first harvest in the first months of the extension programme.
The programme will benefit mainly members of Abahuzamugambi ba Kawa ya Maraba, a cooperative of over 1,450 coffee growers in Huye and the architects of the Maraba specialty coffee brand.
It is projected that increasing production will also benefit the more than 11 coffee washing stations operating in the district.
Farmers believe the investment will boost production, address the growing demand for coffee and help increase their income.
“More plantations mean more production and more money,” says Theophile Biziyaremye, the representative of Abahuzamugambi ba Maraba cooperative.
“It is a promising investment and we believe it will further transform our lives. We are targeting increased quantity and improved quality,” mayor Muzuka says.
“We are extending the coffee plantation and at the same time making sure that the quality remains competitive,” he adds
Focus on quality
There have been criticisms that the Maraba coffee might be losing its quality and place on the local and international market.
But both farmers and authorities believe the perceived decline is a result of increased competition and improved practices from other coffee producers.
“The quality has never gone down,” mayor Muzuka says.
“It is possible that more quality coffee brands have emerged and that farmers elsewhere in the country have adopted best coffee handling practices,” he adds.
Farmers also remain positive over the quality of their coffee.
“The quality of our coffee has never declined,” says Bizumuremyi.
“The feedback we are getting from our clients remains overwhelmingly positive. Our coffee has always been ranked as the best coffee in the annual Cup of Excellence,” Bizumuremyi said.
The Rwanda Cup of Excellence, the most esteemed international award given to top quality coffee brands in the country, selects the very best coffee produced annually.
The winning brand is chosen by a group of national and international agriculture experts.
To ensure that the quality of coffee remains good, farmers are being encouraged to adopt best farming practices during the growing and handling of their produce.
They include the use of quality seeds, fertilisers, pest control methods and proper handling of mature coffee beans at washing stations, among others.
“We want to reclaim our top position as producers of the best speciality coffee,” Muzuka notes.
“Continuous improvement in quality and quantity will bring in more revenue and help improve living conditions of our people.”