Triumph After Turmoil Series: Rwanda’s Finest Coffee

Maria Bedabazingwa is a coffee farmer in Rwanda earning enough income to support herself and her family. Photo Credit: Nana Kofi Acquah

Maria Bedabazingwa is a coffee farmer in Rwanda earning enough income to support herself and her family. Photo Credit: Nana Kofi Acquah

In post-genocide Rwanda, coffee farming has been a boon to small farmers looking to rebuild livelihoods after the 1994 violence. Agriculture accounts for almost 90 percent of Rwanda’s economy, with over 500,000 smallholder farmers growing coffee. RWASHOSCCO, a Rwandan Small Holder Specialty Coffee Company and USADF grantee, is a Fair Trade Certified Small Holder Specialty Coffee Company in Kigali made up of six farmers’ cooperatives, and representing the interests of nearly 14,000 farmers. With a roasting and export business selling to international brands such as Starbucks and Peet's Coffee, RWASHOSCCO has built a strong reputation as one of Rwanda’s top small coffee businesses with an internationally recognized Maraba Coffee brand. 

Hundreds of locals are employed daily to sort coffee beans at RWASHOSCCO's factory. Photo Credit: Nana Kofi Acquah

Hundreds of locals are employed daily to sort coffee beans at RWASHOSCCO's factory. Photo Credit: Nana Kofi Acquah

USADF partnered with RWASHOSCCO by providing a modest investment of $100,000, RWASHOSCCO’s business quickly developed and USADF provided a second grant of $392,200 to expand market growth opportunities expanding their visibility in the international specialty coffee, and increasing their visibility in both domestic and international export markets.

Maria Bedabazingwa is a coffee farmer from Musasa district, and a member of the Dukunde Kana coffee cooperative that RWASHOSCCO represents. Maria lost her husband and two eldest children during the 1994 genocide. With her house and land destroyed after the war, Maria struggled for years until 2002 when she joined the cooperative to grow coffee. With a steady income from selling her coffee beans, Maria was able to buy a cow through the Dukunde Kana cooperative fund and purchase health insurance. “Before I had nothing. Now thanks to my coffee farming, I was able to save enough money to build my new house, says Maria. USADF is helping small farmers like Maria to build better, more sustainable livelihoods.

Maria Bedabazingwa shows off her new home. With her earnings from selling coffee, she was able to build a house, and purchase a cow and health insurance.

Maria Bedabazingwa shows off her new home. With her earnings from selling coffee, she was able to build a house, and purchase a cow and health insurance.

By partnering with USADF, RWASHOSCCO has had the tools necessary to be a truly transformative business for thousands of farmers and families supplying coffee. As shareholders, the coffee farmers of RWASHOSCCO are benefiting from the business’ new financial management system, and dedicated senior staff. With a fully operational processing plant in Kigali, RWASHOSCCO was able to increase production and reduce costs of transporting coffee to market. Most importantly, there is now an established system of business and social indicators providing the data necessary to confidently engage international businesses of conscience who invest in fair trade and socially responsible businesses. At the core of our mission, USADF believes every African should have an opportunity to be a part of Africa’s growth story. RWASHOSCCO is a prime example of resilience and how working collaboratively – Hutu and Tutsi alike, the benefits of community collaboration and hard work can result in a pathway to prosperity.

Twenty-two years ago this April we mark the beginning of the Rwandan genocide, where nearly a million people were killed in 100 days in 1994. The U.S. African Development Foundation has remained steadfast to helping Rwanda’s men and women, from vulnerable women to smallholder farmers, from entrepreneurs to small business owners, to rebuild their country. USADF supports vulnerable populations as they advance from the sidelines of poverty, with USADF assistance, to become players in the economic growth and progress in post-genocide Rwanda. For more information, visit our Remembering Rwanda series.