Tea Farmers in western province districts of Rustiro, Karongi and Nyamaseke say ever since tea farming was introduced, their livelihoods have improved for the better.
Most farmers say when they started out in 2000s they were growing limited number of trees and didn’t expect to make much from it, however few years down the road the activity has seen them earn pretty well and improve their lives.
According to Peragie Uwamariya, 42, when she first engaged in tea farming she did not think much of it as income generating activity that her family would exclusively depend on. “I only knew it would be like any other farming activity that would give me a few pennies to survive,” she says.
Noting that at first she was harvesting less than 50 Kg, currently from her 2 hectares she is able to harvest more than 800kgs per month.
In Rutsiro District, Rutsiro Tea Growers Cooperative (RUTEGROC) with six sectors and a total industrial block of 500 hectares having 2,708 members started in 2010, it is composed mainly of small scale farmers but in tea farming.
Hungurimana Gaspard, the president of the cooperative says people have understood the value of tea farming and they coop is widely open to accommodate anyone who would wish to join it. “When we started, we were growing on less than 250 hectares with a production of only 19,045 kilos per month” he said.
To expand its export base, the country has embarked on quality and helping cooperatives expand tea plantations while applying appropriate applications of fertilizers and uplifting the farmers’ standard of living.
“Where we have reached there are significant signs to show that we have been able to improve our standards of living whereby currently, every farmer is able to earn over FRW100,000 per month and even up to FRW500,000 of which wasn’t the case previously and as of now, the growing of tea is also playing a big role in the increment of home income to some farmers.” he adds.
As of current, the farmers are fairly comfortable given the fact that they are able to do some savings because of good harvest and able to afford the basics at home compared to previously.
Hungurimana further noted that PRICE started working in partnership with RUTEGROC in 2014 and by paying the workers, acquiring office furniture, a vehicle and even acquiring the current building they are occupying as their office and many other things.
RUTEGROC cooperative got a loan of one billion, five hundred twenty eight million, eight hundred eighty one thousand, eight hundred francs that was given by BRD in three phases with the first installment in 2011, then in 2013 and 2014.
Members of the cooperative have since started paying back their debts.
Hungurimana appreciates H.E President Paul Kagame on behalf of the cooperative for the kind gesture of debt relief he gave them with over 280 million francs that they were supposed to pay back to BRD and committed that they intend to pay back the other balance of loan if all goes well with the harvests and the product gotten market by 2030.
As of June this year, Rwanda exported to the international market 32.6 million kilos of made tea from 30.5 million kilos exported during the period last year. Its export revenues increased by 12%, from USD 83.5 million to USD 93.6 million.
By 2024, it is anticipated that a total volume of 65,099 Metric Tons of Rwanda Tea will have been exported, generating USD 209million.
Tea is one of the top foreign exchange earners for the country and is exported to more than 48 countries in Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East.