Sustainable Harvest Rwanda, a nongovernmental organisation that aims to improve coffee productivity, Tuesday launched a three-year-long project to help women better take control of the coffee farming process.
The project, which will focus on three districts (Gakenke, Rulindo and Gicumbi) in the Northern Province, will train more than 3,000 female coffee farmers to care for their coffee plantations and better follow the production chain from planting to consumption. The goal is to improve coffee yield and taste.
Speaking at the event, Christine Condo, Sustainable Harvest’s country director, said this project aims also to improve the livelihoods of low-income female farmers by training them to improve coffee quality, make the trade process more transparent, and improve coffee prices.
“For the past two and a half years, we operated in Kayonza and Nyaruguru districts and the results speak for themselves,” Condo said. For instance, she said, female farmers have increased their harvests on small plots of land, they are now connected to international buyers, while some have started their own washing stations.
As Rwandan coffee farmers increasingly train in farming and business, the quality of Rwandan coffee will improve and the country will be able to export more and sell more locally, she said.
Viviane Mukandaruhutse, the president of the ‘Twongere Umusaruro Wa Kawa’ cooperative in Kayonza District, said her cooperative members are educated and empowered thanks to their partnership with Sustainable Harvest over the past two years.
“Before we met them we were mixing coffee trees with other crops and not applying insecticides on time,” she said. Now, she said, coffee production has increased threefold and the women have been able to borrow Rwf50 million to invest in their businesses for a Rwf 21 million profit.
Celestin Gatarayiha, coffee regulator at the National Agriculture Exports Development Board (NAEB), promised the organisation’s support to make sure farmers are equipped with skills to improve the quality of coffee production and revenue.
“These three districts are known for overall higher production more than any other in the country,” she said. “We can even get more when the farmers get new agronomic skills.”
Emmanuel Kayiranga, the Mayor of Rulindo District, said that farmers will benefit from the partnership with Sustainable Harvest.
“The project will not only give farm-based training,” he said. “Connecting the farmers with the buyers can really make a great impact on the lives of farmers.”
According to statistics from NAEB, Rwanda’s coffee export revenues increased to $8.3 million (about Rwf 6.5 billion) during the first three months of 2016, up from $6.6 million over the same period in 2015.
The country exported 3.3 million kilos of coffee during the first quarter of 2016, up from 1.8 million kilos during the same period in 2015.
NAEB’s five-year strategic plan seeks to increase coffee exports by an annual average growth rate of 29 per cent to achieve annual export receipts of more than $104 million by 2018, from about $61 million in 2013. One way this will be accomplished is by increasing productivity from 2.4 kg per coffee tree in 2013 to 3.1 kg per tree by 2018.
The plan is to increase productivity and value addition along the value chain to make the country’s coffee industry more competitive and beneficial to farmers.