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“Let’s Talk Coffee” Rwanda

“Let’s Talk Coffee” Rwanda event was organized and hosted by the Sustainable Harvest and its partner Women for Women International (WfWI) in the Kayonza District, Rwanda, in two-day program (18-19 Feb, 2014) and networking event held at WfWI’s Women’s Opportunity Center in Kayonza District,

This event is the beginnings of a new initiative with the singular focus of helping female smallholders in Rwanda find financial opportunities, network, and receive job training in the production of coffee, mushrooms and honey. Sustainable Harvest says the event is a reflection of its “Relationship Coffee” model, and it has launched its own local NGO, Sustainable Harvest-Rwanda, to support the program.

The two-day program and networking event was held at WfWI’s Women’s Opportunity Center in Kayonza District, a training and convening space designed to intentionally cultivate networking, education, and economic development. Where 80 female farmers from two District of the country (40 of Nyaruguru District and 40 of Kayonza District), where Let’s Talk Coffee Rwanda introduced female farmers enrolled in Women for Women International’s (WfWI) life-skills training program to all aspects of the value chain, not just in coffee but in mushroom and honey production as well. Experts from around the world, coffee roasters, retailers, NGOs, operators of coffee washing stations and mills, and senior government officials discussed challenges while strengthening opportunities for smallholder farmers to make connections to the greater coffee value chain. Let’s Talk Coffee Rwanda’s keynote speaker was Grace Hightower De Niro, who launched the coffee company Grace Hightower & Coffees of Rwanda in 2013 with Oda Gasinzigwa, Hon. Minister of Gender, Rwanda and Amb. George William Kayonga, Director General of National Agricultural Export development Board (NAEB), Rwanda.

During the event 80 female farmers had an opportunity to collaborate with other people from every step in the specialty coffee chain: experts from around the world and shared cutting-edge ideas in financing and traceability, business models, technology, exemplary quality, and best practices among coffee suppliers from Rwanda. Over the course of two days, Let’s Talk Coffee Rwanda featured both interactive training sessions along with leaders from the United States and Rwanda participating in panel discussions and presentations on ways to overcome barriers to increase the engagement and close the distance between producers, distributors, and retailers. Participants attend discussions, workshops --a hands-on experience that is the basis for the continued unity and success of our industry. Where at the ground the following workshops/Rotation were installed:

(1)Beekeeping and honey production System (Marie Claire Nyirangirimana, Master beekeeper, REDO Rural Rwanda)

(2)Mushroom Production unit, (Samuel Niyomugabo, Manager of Outreach and Training, Kigali farms)

(3)Organic fertilizer production and use, (Super Mpirwa Iyakare, Agronomist, Sustainable Harvest Rwanda and Dr. Mario Seracin, Rogers Family Coffee-Rwanda)

(4)Best Practice in Coffee Harvest, (Albert Nzamwita, Agronomist Sustainable Harvest Rwanda)

(5)Coffee Roasting and Understanding value added steps, (Marcus Young, Relationship Coffee Manager, Sustainable Harvest, USA and Kayitesi Betty, Coffee International Marketing, NAEB, Rwanda)

(6)Coffee tasting/cupping, (Olga CuellaR-Gomez, Strategic relationship Director, Sustainable Harvest, Colombia and Mr. Eric Rukwaya, Product development research officer, NAEB, Rwanda)

Where also were different panels of speakers’ with moderated presentations for different subjects where the event boosted knowledge and networking among female coffee professionals in Rwanda with the launch of its first Let’s Talk Coffee event in Rwanda creating economic opportunities in the Rwandan coffee trade for women entering the job market with new skills. “Relationships are critical to the future of specialty coffee,” said David Griswold, President and Founder of Sustainable Harvest, in a statement. “We must work collaboratively to address the challenges smallholder women farmers face. Let’s Talk Coffee Rwanda offers a unique forum for fostering these conversations.”

“Through understanding and awareness of what the marketplace is demanding, and by hearing directly from those in the business, we empower women farmers to see new ways to increase incomes,” says Esther Mukundane, country director of Sustainable Harvest-Rwanda.