“Coffee has the power to connect people all over the world. It has also the power to connect women to their family. When we empower women, we empower the whole family. When women have dignity, they are more confident and have trust in the future.”
These are the words from the Vice Mayor, in charge of Economic Development for Rulindo (a district in the north of Rwanda). He gave the closing speech at the ceremony celebrating the birth of a new women’s coffee cooperative: the Kayenzi Coffee Cooperative (Kacoco).
Kayenzi Coffee Cooperative
There are already a large number of women’s coffee cooperatives in Rwanda but this latest one is a bit special. It is the first initiative led by the Rwanda Chapter of IWCA (International Women’s Coffee Alliance), led by Angelique Karekezi their President, and a small group of strong and inspiring Rwandanese female coffee entrepreneurs. They have the support of IWCA International team, local authorities, the COOPAC, Sustainable Growers and World Coffee Research to mention only few.
With investment funds provided by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) of around USD $40.000, the cooperative of 30 women coffee farmers represented by their president, Patricia Mukagashugi, has been granted 1.6 hectares of land; where they have planted 3.726 arabica coffee trees, 3.091 of them in a large plantation field and the remaining 635 trees dedicated to research. They also plant banana, mimosa and ficus trees to provide shade to the coffee trees; an important way of managing the maturation and quality of the coffee cherries. They are aiming to grow and harvest high grade specialty coffee to maximise the income from their land.
Angelique Karekezi, on the right
What I found striking during this day of happy celebrations was the strong solidarity, friendship, cooperation and respect amongst all those women. From different backgrounds, ages and origins but all with a common aim: building a strong and fruitful coffee chain in Rwanda that can benefit the whole community.
We want to stay in touch with them and follow their progress as the coffee trees grow. Their first harvest is expected in two years time, which I have no doubt will be an amazing “grand cru”. We hope to be the first to try it!