Karengera Coffee Ltd, a company of more than 2,500 coffee farmers, has become the first organisation to achieve Rainforest Alliance certification in Rwanda. For a country that has spent two decades recovering from the atrocities of civil war this is a huge milestone, bringing hope of a more sustainable future for the farmers involved.
Working with coffee traders, KZ Noir, the farmers of Karengera Coffee Ltd have successfully achieved certification through a project funded by Taylors of Harrogate and the UK’s International Development Department’s Food Retail Industry Challenge (FRICH). The FRICH challenge is aimed at the European food sector and is to find innovative ways to bring more African foods to Europe. The Fund supports new ideas that connect African farmers with global retailers through innovative business partnerships.
The farmers grow their Arabica coffee on the shores of Lake Kivu in Western Rwanda on less than half an acre each, before delivering their coffee cherries to the company’s two washing stations for wet processing.
The farmers have received training on the rigorous social and environmental standards set by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN). The project started in 2012, and less than a year on, the farmers have worked hard to implement better practices on their farms and in the washing stations. As a result, the farmers have achieved great success, becoming the first coffee farmers in Rwanda to gain Rainforest Alliance certification.
Speaking about the joint project, Pascal Kalisa, Sustainability Manager at Karengera Coffee said: “I am so very happy with the efforts that we put in to this project; we know it will help us a lot. The farmers are so happy too; with certification they will get a good market, and it will change our region. It’s such an interesting project and this is just the beginning. We are so happy to collaborate with the Rainforest Alliance. We were trained so well by the team.”
As part of the project, a team from Taylors of Harrogate visited Karengera Coffee, and the farmers were able to meet their buyers for the first time, creating opportunities for dialogue, openness, and sharing market information.
Gilbert Gatali, General Manager of KZ Noir, went on to say: “We are excited in that the Rainforest Alliance sustainable agriculture program is a process. We expect to use this program to build relationships with our farmers and establish a loyal supply base, as well as improve relationships with market players, especially Taylors. We also expect to achieve consistency on high productivity of high quality coffee, and work on a pricing mechanism where premiums are passed onto farmers. Awareness has already spread among the washing station workers about health and safety, and farmers are implementing improved farm management practices, including rainwater harvesting.”