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Origin Spotlight: Rwanda

Coffee is Rwanda’s leading export crop and contributes, on average, 24 percent of total agricultural exports over the last decade. Coffee for this landlocked nation supports the livelihoods of 400,000 farmers and their families.

Our Rwandan has been provided by the Kopakaki cooperative. Kopakaki means “cooperative of farmers of Kibuye”. The cooperative was established in 2005 with 90 farmers which has grown to 1,184 small holder farmers with over 2,114,800 coffee trees. The cooperative has boasted rapid growth and adopts a continuous improvement ethos to its work. The cooperative aims to support coffee producers within the region through capacity building, coffee processing and access to market.

Despite the positive, accelerated growth, the Rwandan coffee industry has endured several challenges and issues over the last century. The potato defect, world coffee price crisis, the devastating genocide and the struggle for independence. The resilience has paid dividend, Rwanda has seen a 23% increase in investments and circa 35,000 jobs created with a target of 10% increase each year. Rwanda has one of the fastest growing economies in the world but does not reflect the issues within the myriad of the coffee industry.

The growth is paradoxically accompanied with mass youth under and unemployment. A significant percentage of youths’ work without pay on family farms or as waged farmhands for independent farmers. With opportunity of this nature, many are disregarding a future with coffee and moving to the city to seek an alternative.

Prices, market complexity and high risk/low reward are the dominant factors deterring the future coffee farmers of Rwanda. Potential farmers are attracted to the ‘Iron Sky’ of the city, creating a void of uncertainty with the nations age old industry.

A lack of motivation within the industry aims to be remedied with fairness, communication of adequate knowledge and equal opportunity. There are several organisations working to reconnect workers with the industry, providing incentive and adequate support for growth. In addition to third party organisations, responsibility lies with the supply chain in its entirety. All organsations has a role to safeguard the sustainability of the industry and promote fairness.

The void is far from being rectified. With that said, identifying a deficiency is the first stepping stone as a solution to an issue is derived. The current coffee population will be required to work closely and diligently with their successors. Adapting to change will be paramount to restoring youths’ purpose within the industry.

The intent to establish change is never redundant providing its executed with purpose.

Drink to a positive future.

BDC.

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