The Maraba co-operative have a very important role in Union’s history, being the first co-operative that Union partnered with back in 2001. A USAID-funded development project was launched to improve the livelihoods of poor rural farmers through production of high-quality coffee following the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Union were the first commercial partners of this project, becoming the first coffee company in the world to source speciality coffee from Rwanda.
Rwanda is commonly nicknamed ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’ - a small country with a hilly landscape allowing you to see for miles. The high altitudes make for the perfect locations to grow speciality coffee. Maraba coffee is grown up at 1,700 metres above sea level.
From approximately 300 initial members in 2001, the co-operative has expanded to over 1,500 members, of which about 35% are women. We have worked with the co-operative to fund processing facilities and to provide training in growing high-quality coffee, allowing farmers to earn more for their crop. The premium we pay has contributed towards health insurance for co-operative members, improved housing and economic stability in the local area through the creation of shops and local banks.
There has been a transformation in Maraba. What was once one of the poorest regions of Rwanda, has now got growing economic stability, a bustling town and strong community spirit.