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KOAKAKA, coffee, Rwanda (Producer)

According to The World Food Programme Annual Country Report on Rwanda 2021: ‘Rwanda has made commendable progress towards achieving gender equality, ranking seventh out of 156 countries in 2021 and the highest among Sub-Saharan African countries.’ 

It is believed that, after Rwanda’s devastating civil war and genocide in 1994, the new role of women in the country challenged traditional concepts of gender in Sub-Saharan Africa. (Source: ‘Africa at LSE’, a platform for analysis on African political, social and economic affairs.)

With a substantial share of Rwandan households involved in coffee farming headed by women, many are involved in the entire coffee production process. This involves bringing the harvest to fruition, from planting seedlings to the delivery of coffee cherries to washing stations, generating much-needed income for themselves and their families.

Image: KOAKAKA coffee producer Anatholie Tuyisenge at the field in Rwanda. 


In fact, the 2019-20 Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey (2019-20 RDHS) - implemented by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MOH) - states that 31% of women own land, alone or jointly, compared to 34% of men. 

KOAKAKA (Koperative y’ abahinzi ba Kawa Karaba) coffee co-operative lies on the edge of the Nyungwe rainforest in the South Province of Rwanda. KOAKAKA became a Shared Interest customer in 2013, when we provided finance so that they could purchase a truck. Since then, we have provided a facility to support the co-operative in exporting their award-winning coffee. Almost half of their production is delivered to buyers in the UK, Belgium and Australia and 40% to buyers in Japan. The remaining coffee is sold locally.

In 2016, KOAKAKA coffee was recognised as one of the best in the country and in 2018, they were awarded 10th place in the Rwanda Cup of Excellence. Women’s development remains a priority within the co-operative, and they have established a brand of coffee, which is grown solely by women.

We spoke to Marthe Uzamukunda, who is part of their Women in Coffee project, and Vice Chair of Heza Coffee group (Heza translates as ‘better’ in the local language, Kinyarwanda), which consists of 30 members. Over the next five years, Marthe hopes the group will increase to 100 women. For now, the group meets each month to discuss their farming business and any challenges they are facing with work and family.

Marthe has received training in harvesting red coffee cherries, which are good quality and bring a better price from buyers. KOAKAKA has also provided financial management training and the women have since started their own savings scheme, where they each make a monthly contribution. This enables the group to provide small loans to members, to support with farming or household activities. If there are funds remaining, each year the group transfers this money to a SACCO (Savings and Credit Co-operative). They hope to save enough money to buy their own plot of land, where they will grow their coffee as a group.

When they started farming, Marthe and her husband Sylivain had 350 trees and a small hand-powered machine to pulp the coffee. Training from KOAKAKA in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) has helped improve their production and processing methods. Over the next five years, they hope to further increase their coffee farm to 3,000 trees and buy more land to expand their farm.

Marie Claire, is also part of the Women in Coffee group, which has just under 300 members. To encourage other women to get involved, they are suggesting that male farmers give a small coffee plot to a female member of their household. 

Read the full story of KOAKAKA here.

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