Two decades after a devastating genocide that took the lives of 800,000 citizens, Rwanda’s people and economy are on the road to recovery. The country’s premium coffee beans—now fetching some of the industry’s highest prices—have been an important part of that recovery.
Now, there is a new development in the rising Rwandan coffee industry: Karengera Coffee Ltd., comprised of 2,500 supplier farmers, has become the first organization in the country to earn Rainforest Alliance certification.
The farmers, who grow their Arabica coffee on the shores of Lake Kivu in Western Rwanda on less than half an acre each, deliver their cherries to two washing stations for wet processing.
In 2012, the group began receiving training on the rigorous social and environmental standards set by the Sustainable Agriculture Network and required for Rainforest Alliance certification. Less than a year later, they had achieved the sustainability milestone through hard work and dedication.
“Awareness has already spread among the washing station workers about health and safety,” says Gilbert Gatali, general manager of KZ Noir. “Farmers are implementing improved farm management practices, including rainwater harvesting.”
The farmers, traders and buyers are all thrilled with the process. “I am so very happy with the efforts that we put into this project—we know it will help us a lot,” says Pascal Kalisa, sustainability manager at Karengera. “The farmers are so happy, too. With certification they will get a good market. It will change our region.”
Recently, a team from Taylors of Harrogate had an opportunity to visit the farmers of Karengera Coffee. The trip marked the first time that local producers were able to meet their buyers, and it provided a unique opportunity for dialogue, openness and the sharing of market information.
“It is such an interesting project and this is just the beginning,” says Kalisa. We are so happy to collaborate with the Rainforest Alliance. We were trained so well by the team.”