January 03 2019 – Michael van den Heerik
When most people think of Rwanda, they immediately think of the horrific genocide that took place over 24 years ago, and that left 1,000,000 people dead. Though the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi is a big part of the nation’s history, there is perhaps an even bigger part that is rewriting its future – the Rwandan coffee industry.
Rwanda’s coffee history dates back to the 1930s when the Belgian colonial empire forced Rwandan farmers to plant an abundance of coffee trees. This ultimately created a 'low-quality/low-price' trap which was a bane for the entire nation. Rwandan farmers also lacked the proper infrastructure necessary to wash and process so much coffee. Whatever coffee was actually produced was often of the poorest quality.
Today, the Rwandan coffee industry is producing some of the highest quality coffee in the world. The coffee industry in Rwanda has been responsible for creating jobs, as well as boosting small farmer expenditure and consumption. By joining this once broken community, they now work side-by-side in complete harmony. Growing and processing the highest quality coffee beans in the world.
This resulted in the rebirth of the Nkora washing station, which is not only the first washing station in Rwanda but also the largest. Allowing a part of Rwandan history to directly tie into the making of Kivu noir.
These developments were made possible by leaders who recognized the potential in the coffee industry. They began lowering trade barriers and lifting restrictions on coffee farmers. Then, Rwanda developed a strategy focused on the production of high-quality beans. The leaders of the Rwandan coffee industry found out that prices on speciality coffee beans often remain quite stable, even when lower-quality coffee prices fall. But the farmers didn’t have to switch the type of coffee beans they were producing. Instead, they focused on paying special attention to the best growing practices, which improved the quality of the coffee.
Speciality coffee in Rwanda has been processed for over 15 years. This lead to profits which has allowed Rwandan coffee farmers to send their children to school, build new homes and reinvest in their own plantations. It has also had a direct impact on Rwanda itself, becoming one of the cleanest and safest countries in Africa. It also has the highest participation of women in the parliament, compared to other countries. This rebuilding of the community has allowed a nation that was once torn apart to come together and unite for a better future – a future in which not only their country can flourish, but the community that sustains it as well.
So, the next time you decide to drink a cup of coffee, take the time to find out where it came from. If your coffee came from Rwanda, remember that what you’re drinking helped rebuild a once broken nation.