Rwanda: Local NGO Bets on Training to Turnaround Fortunes of Women Coffee Farmers

Like most women who are engaged in agriculture, Prisca Mukamurenzi--a coffee farmer--used to grapple with low yields for a long time, largely stemming from poor farming practices.

The 46-year-old from Huye District used to harvest one kilogramme of coffee from one tree.

However, her fortunes turned around three years ago when she started receiving training on coffee farming by Sustainable Growers Rwanda (SG-R)--a local non-profit organisation.

The organisation aims to improve the livelihoods of low income women coffee farmers through trainings. Their training seeks to, among other benefits, promote transparency in coffee trading, and improve the quality and prices for coffee.

Since undergoing SG-R training, Mukamurenzi has been applying better farming techniques such as mulching, timely application of pesticides and fertilisers, hence effectively improving yields to three kilogrammes per tree.

She also managed to increase the number of coffee trees in her garden from 185 to 250.

Last year, she generated Rwf460,000 from a harvest of 250 kilogrammes of coffee, she disclosed.

She is among the over 3,7000 women farmers from 14 cooperatives in the districts of Huye, Nyaruguru, Gisagara and Nyamagabe--who, on Wednesday, graduated from SG-R's training programme.

The programme consists of topics such as best agricultural practices, cooperative management, governance and leadership, gender mainstreaming and home coffee roasting. It was carried out in Huye District.

In addition, they were trained in quality control and cupping, which are expected to boost their ability to access a bigger market for their produce as well as funding from financial institutions.

To incentivise farmers, SG-R has also developed a rewarding scheme known as Premium Sharing Rewards (PSR) "Wakoze neza Muhinzi" which is aimed at rewarding women coffee farmers for implementing best agricultural practices.

The best performing farmers were rewarded cows, pigs, goats, sprayers, pruning shears, pruning saws, solar lights, mattresses, fabrics (ibitenge), radios and phones, depending on the level of performance

The rewards are valued at Rwf17 million.

Christine Condo, the Regional Director at Sustainable Growers said the rewards will motivate farmers to love their trade more.

"We have a heavy agenda to enrich women's potential with skills and means. Their focus and discipline inspires me greatly. These initiatives impact positively on the entire life-cycle of their respective families and Communities," Condo stated.

She added; "We believe that 60 per cent of coffee quality is achieved from the farm. That is why we have been training them to take care of coffee from seedlings to roasting, to cupping and marketing."

She added that in Nyaruguru District where the NGO started its trainings three years ago coffee yield per tree increased by 100 per cent.

Nyaruguru District Mayor, François Habitegeko, said that the district exports 420 tonnes of coffee per year. He is keen on helping farmer increasing coffee exports from his district.

"We should increase coffee production, but chiefly quality. Because there are many countries we are competing with at the international market and they produce more quantities of coffee than us, what we can do to win in that situation is to produce super quality coffee that will fetch higher prices than others," Habitegeko observed.

Overall, this week, over 14,000 women coffee farmers graduated from the year-long training. There were four graduation ceremonies, one in each province starting from May 14 to 17 to celebrate the completion of the programme.

Sustainable Growers Rwanda initiated the three-year programme in 2017, targeting to support 25,000 coffee women growers and their families in the whole coffee value chain.

The programme has so far trained 28,884 women coffee farmers from 75 cooperatives in 12 districts across the country.

Women account for 32 per cent of the 350,000 coffee farmers in Rwanda, according to figures from the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda.

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