The Inspirer Staff.
The journey started in 1998 when 46 men and women from Rutsiro and Karongi Districts on the eastern shores of Lake Kivu about 150km from Kigali founded a cooperative called KOPAKAMA (Koperative y’abahinzi ba Kawa ba Mabanza). They all had a common Goal to grow Arabica coffee on their volcanic soils of the hills overlooking Lake Kivu at an altitude of more than 1 500m above sea level.
The well-organized coffee farmers worked tirelessly to save their coffee whose quality was lost in household roasting. When their dream came true in 2003, they established their first coffee washing station (CWS) with the assistance of PDCRE, an IFAD funded project.
According to Kayitare Gervais, the Managing Director of the cooperative, the cooperative grew gradually as more members applied to join their initiative of putting together their coffee production for a better washing and drying of green coffee beans. “This washing station added value to our coffee” He said. He added that they had the main ambition to increase the number of coffee trees in the area and may be in the future they would think of their own plant.
Their membership rose to more than 700 members, with 40% women and they recently constructed a coffee dry mill, which serves to process their coffee as well as their neighboring cooperatives’ coffee instead of bringing it to Kigali where it was formerly processed before export. “Bringing our coffee to Kigali for primary processing, was costly to the cooperative and the profit at farmers’ level was not really impressive” said Gervais. He also added that as they have established their own dry mill, they got a bargaining power, which made the cooperative reach their customers directly and discuss a favorable price for their coffee. This exposed the cooperative to the international competitiveness of coffee standards.
Their coffee is now Fair-Trade certified by Rainforest Alliance and uses its Fairtrade premium for various projects including corporate social responsibilities. They recently have passed an audit supervision, which will allow their coffee to be certified as Organic coffee. Their famous coffee is trusted for its good quality and it is exported to diverse markets in the UK, USA and Japan through MISOZI, a cooperative owned limited company established and funded by PDCRE and PRICE both IFAD funded projects.
In 2013, they started a project known as Women’s Coffee project by buying a field for women to produce and sell coffee. It is called Kopakama Ejo Heza, meaning “brighter future” and 244 women own it collectively.
Their vision is to move together towards a more stable price and market for their coffee
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