Experts and players in the coffee sub-sector from Rwanda and beyond held a two-day conference under the banner ‘Let’s Talk Coffee Rwanda 2017’ to discuss how value can be added on to the crop to fetch more for everyone along the value chain.
Organised by the Sustainable Harvest Rwanda in partnership with the Relationship Coffee Institute and Bloomberg Philanthropies, the meeting, that ended yesterday, brought together coffee producers, exporters, importers, buyers and government officials.
It discussed the challenges and opportunities facing the coffee industry, giving yet another opportunity for Rwandans involved in this business to promote projects to the potential investors.
“What we wanted to do is bringing together the entire value chain under one roof to give everyone opportunity to come share their experience,” said Ruth Coleman, the executive director of Relationship Coffee Institute.
“We are looking forward to commercial contracts and new partnerships between the various players in the future,” she added.
She added that it was good time to discuss some of the main challenges facing coffee farmers, including the effects of climate change.
Fulgence Nsengiyumva, the State Minister for Agriculture, said that coffee is one of the cash crops that benefit many Rwandans, adding that such platforms serve to link all stakeholders, from the farmer up the chain.
“Coffee is the major export for Rwanda and impacts many people’s lives. For instance, the last ‘coffee campaign’ generated about Rwf20 billion in revenues for coffee farmers through selling cherries, and it created jobs for about 69,000 people at coffee washing stations and other related works,” he noted.
Women in coffee business
He explained that, among the 69,000 people working at the various coffee washing stations across the country, 70 per cent of them are women participating in the sorting exercise.
“The role of women in the implementation of strategies to increase coffee yield and quality, and their participation in the value addition is to be encouraged. Women are participating in farmers field schools in different areas of the country which train coffee farmers in good farming practices,” Nsengiyumva added.
While most of the agricultural production is done by women in Rwanda, Coleman reckons it’s necessary to engage with them and deliberate on ways through which they can be further supported to increase production.
“Most of the agricultural production is done by women but they are often left behind at the time of selling the yield and yet if women had access to these proceeds it would directly impact families. Investing in women is investing in the world because they reinvest in their families,” she explained.
Sustainable Harvest Rwanda has been supporting coffee farmers since 2013 and, today, they are working with about 4,000 women coffee farmers across the country, she said.
According to the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) boss Amb. George William Kayonga, over 355,000 smallholder farmers in the country are currently involved in coffee farming.
Coffee is grown on over 35,000 hectares with an average holding of 0.1 hectares per farm, he said. “We export over 22,000 metric tonnes that generate over 60 million dollars per year.”
Kayonga added that the sector could have been doing even better had it not been for a decline in prices on the international market.