Rwanda - Kirambo Lot 319 | Natural | Bourbon
|Density ( gram/liter ):||
Blueberry, strawberry jam, golden kiwi, caramel, syrupy and fruity
SPOTLIGHT: WASHING STATION
Approaching from the south, passing through Butare and Gikongoro, the journey
to Kirambo takes you high up the mountain pass over 2000 metres through the
Nyungwe National Forest Park. Here the native L’Hoest’s monkeys dive from the
roadside into the jungle below and occasionally baboons sit stubbornly in the road. Rwanda’s National Guard patrol stretches of the forest road, deterring people attempting to enter the country from bordering Congo and Burundi through the jungle.
The small town of Kirambo sits on Lake Kivu’s eastern shore in the Kibuye region, within Rwanda’s Western Province. The washing station covers a 6 hectare area and sits on the lake side, looking west to Congo. Established in 1999, RTC took ownership in 2017 employing 7 full-time and 40 casual staff during the harvest. 95% of staff at Kirambo are women, including Esperance, the accountant, and Florence, the main field officer for the station who works to support the farmers of Kirambo with their participation in RTC’s training program. Florence, 23, has lived and worked in this area all her life and takes great pride in playing a role in the area that supports the local economy. During the training program’s initial enrolment of station employees, Florence stood out to our colleague Brooke Cantrell – Westrock’s sustainability manager – as someone with huge potential, curiosity and inner passion, but who back in 2017 was lacking confidence. I was happy to report back to Brooke when we met in Kigali a few days after our visit to
Kirambo, that Florence had taken great ownership of the station, proudly showing us around the grounds as the processing activity was drawing to a close.
500 farmers contribute cherry to the station that produces exclusively natural processed lots, with an annual average production of 300 tons. Average farm sizes are 300 trees only (less than 1 hectare) with some farmers owning as a few as 50 trees amongst their other crops. All the farms lay within 3km of the station. Many farmers are able to delivery cherry themselves as the station is so close to the farms, and some who have less mobility – often older farmers – will have their
cherry collected from the station’s site collectors.
Country Population: 11,553,000 approx.
Altitude range: 1300 – 2200 masl (approx)
Total yearly production: 258,000 (60kg bags) (ICO – 14/15)
Processing: Mostly washed, but some natural
No. of smallholder farmers: 500,000 approx.
Average farm sizes: 0-4 hectares
Harvest periods: March - June
In Rwanda, coffee has brought hope for a better future since the dark days of Civil War that shook the country, and indeed the world, back in 1994. Coffee has been used as a vehicle for positive change in the years that have followed, and the country is now rightly heralded as a top producer of fine specialty coffee.
Coffee was introduced to Rwanda in 1903 by German missionaries. As a cash crop it received government backing but the focus was very much on quantity rather than quality. However, the impact of the world coffee crisis in the late 1990s, when prices fell for several years below the cost of production, caused many Rwandan coffee farmers to rethink their position. Working hand in hand with the Rwandan Coffee Board (OCIR Café), international NGOs such as USAID, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and other coffee-focused organisations, a specialty coffee sector was created in the early 2000s.
Rwanda is blessed with ideal coffee growing conditions that include high altitude, regular rain-fall, volcanic soils with good organic structure and an abundance of Bourbon. The vast majority of Rwandan coffee is produced by smallholders of which there are thought to be around half a million, with parcels of land often not much larger than just one hectare per family. On average, Rwandan smallholders own approximately 180 trees each. Coffee is grown in most parts of the country, with particularly large concentrations along Lake Kivu in the west and in the southern province. Rwandan smallholders organise themselves into cooperatives and share the services of centralised wet-mills or or washing stations. Flowering takes place between September and October and the harvest runs from March to July with shipments starting in late May / early June.
RWANDA TRADING COMPANY
HQ Location: KIgali
No. of Employees:
Working with 52,000 coffee farming
families throughout Rwanda
Rwanda Trading Company (RTC), our sister company, is a green coffee exporter based in Kigali working with farming communities across the country. RTC processes and exports 20% of the Rwandan yearly coffee production through 18 owned washing stations and 74 partner stations, which receive capital and access to the market from RTC. The motive to start RTC in 2009 was the realisation that Rwanda had 300,000 coffee farmers earning less than 30% of their potential farm income because of solvable yield, quality, and transparency problems. The business opportunity was clear: RTC could export increasing volumes of high-value coffees from the same farmer base, while smallholder farmers and the nation could triple annual farm and export revenue, respectively.
RTC’s Sourcing Department have spent weeks and months in the field to learn the obstacles farmers face when trying to build profitable coffee farms. Understanding these obstacles is the foundation on which RTC developed interventions that can simultaneously improve farmers’ livelihoods, gauge farms’ business potential, and secure RTC’s inventory needs. These interventions are offered through RTC’s transparent sourcing strategy and the Agribusiness Training Program (ATP) that started in 2013 with 2,000 farmers and as of 2022, extends to 52,000 participant farming families.
- 209% increase in household income
- 52,000 farmers trained since 2019
3.5million lbs of digitally traceable coffee in 2021
- $200k of pre-season loans to farmers in 2022
- 350,000 seedlings distributed in 2022