First Published - April 25, 2014
This month marks 20 years since the devastating war which damaged Rwanda’s infrastructure and destroyed many lives. Over this time, there has been significant progress made in the effort to rebuild, and our thoughts have been with Rwanda at this time.
Our Relationship with Abahuzamugambi Ba Kawa Co-operative.
Abahuzamugambi Ba Kawa in Hyue, Rwanda are one of the first Union Direct Trade relationships (we started working with the co-operative in 2002). It is heartening that all their efforts and ours, over the past years have been very fruitful. Union Direct Trade is our initiative for ethical sourcing of high-quality coffee. We source from coffee producers by developing long-term relationships, creating price transparency at the farm level and promoting sustainable livelihoods by incentivizing the production of high-quality coffee.
Abahuzamugambi Ba Kawa is the umbrella co-operative organisation that oversees and manages the activities of four coffee washing stations; Sovu, Kibingo; Kabuye and Cyarumbu. The cooperative has 1372 members of which 768 male (56%) and 518 female (44%). The coffee producers are from various sectors of Huye district. These producers are really tiny scale; on average each farmer has 435 trees.
Producing High Quality Coffees
Every year, the co-operative has won various prizes either inTaste of Harvest competition and Cup of Excellence (CoE), taking top places. Here, this year we offer a preparation, specially hand-selected for us that the farmers call an “exceptional lot”. The coffee has bright sweet acidity, with delicious orange and chocolate flavours. Complex lingering toffee notes on the finish.
The income the co-operative earns from producing coffee is used to pay medical insurance for two family members a requirement that not all Rwandese can afford. Similarly school fees for poor rural families are expensive. The school year in Rwanda starts in January before the harvest in April. By January, many families have run out of cash, so we support the cooperative by advancing the school fees which producers pay back in coffee production. The cooperative also provides micro-credit for emergency or a special event such as a wedding. These credits can be repaid with coffee cherries. They have constructed a TELE-CENTER a place where villagers can print and copy with internet access available and members can take a computer courses.
It can take several hours for producers to carry their coffee cherries to the Coffee Washing Station (CWS), to facilitate the transport of the coffee cherries, the cooperative has established collection points where can farmers deliver their freshly picked crop. Here, the coffee is weighed then collected by truck and taken to the CWS. That way, producers without means of transport can still sell their coffee to the cooperative. The CWS operation has created a lot of seasonal employment in an area where there is little economic activity. Men and women have the opportunity for a job to process, dry or hand sort and select the coffee. At each harvest, hundreds of workers are contracted to perform these tasks.
The Union relationship is not “just a buyer”, but to provide long-term support to Maraba so that farmers we engage with can prosper:
Union Hand-Roasted Coffee provides:-
- – Minimum purchasing commitment to give members of the co-operative with the security they need to invest in their land and locality.
- – Forward financing, either directly or via financing agencies. This ensures cash is available to pay farmers at the time of picking and also enables essential supplies that directly affect coffee quality to be purchased.
- – Visits at least every 12 months to develop strategy for the season, to assess quality and review for the following year.
- – New projects to improve capacity building and strengthen governance and leadership within the co-operative.
Through our combined efforts, the local district has transformed itself; building a clinic, bank, bustling twice-weekly farmers market, primary & secondary level schooling, and even 6 hairdressers and other ancillary shops and services have opened – creating a genuine sense of community where once there was only grinding poverty and despair. Much progress has been made at the Co-operative level: purchasing trucks to collect and deliver coffee cherries to washing stations, installation of groundwater treatment facilities to ensure no contamination of the environment and construction of additional coffee washing stations have increased capacity and hence income.