Ferdinand Ahobamuteze had been growing coffee and making losses year after year. The resident of Ngoma Sector in Ngoma District in Eastern Province was ready to give up when help came. “We did not produce enough and the little we produced would be sold locally and only benefited the middlemen. We did not know the value of coffee we were growing,” said Ahobamuteze.
Before 2006, farmers like Ferdinand were continually plagued by poor farming practices which resulted in poor yields. At the government’s prompting, farmers formed cooperatives and began to work together to boost their productivity. Some 227 coffee farmers in Ngoma formed Abakangukiyekawa cooperative.
"Before we started working with SNV, we were disorganized and there was little collaboration among members. We had to begin by embracing a new mindset toward modern farming. They taught us how to increase production by applying fertilizer and pesticides and building coffee washing stations where we could process our cherries to get quality coffee beans" he added.
At the close of the second phase of the Turnaround programme, in May 2017 SNV Rwanda organized a one-day learning event at Lemigo Hotel in Kigali entitled: ‘Quality coffee & Improved quality of life for small holder coffee farmers in Rwanda’.
Speaking at the learning event, Dr Celestin Gatarayiha, the coffee division manager at National Agricultural Export Development Board, SNV has contributed a lot in coffee farming. "There are about 400,000 coffee farmers countrywide, 20 per cent of whom are in cooperatives. The journey is still long. We still have many farmers who are not in cooperatives and it is difficult for them to get good produce. This programme is about to wind up and we call on other stakeholders to come in and support,” Gatarayiha added citing that in 2016, the national dried coffee produce was 22,000 tonnes, of which 19,000 tonnes were exported and brought in $58 million. This year, the National Agricultural Export Development Board expects to export 23,000 tonnes, worth $70 million.
Phomolo Maphosa, the SNV country director, said: “Using the value chain approach, we have addressed bottlenecks and strengthened the chain as a whole with demonstrable results. In total, we have supported 18,295 households, including 7,796 female-headed households. The cooperatives we work with are now profitable operations, producing higher quantities of good quality coffee.
"Through the Turnaround Programme intervention, we have seen great improvement in the governance and business management of the cooperatives, we have also realised growth in the access to market, finance and working capital and a growing membership base," said Francois Sihimbiro, the TAP program manager at SNV.
The aim of the learning event was primarily to share the key achievements realised during the implementation of TAP I and TAP II projects and recognise the growth of the various Cooperatives and Coffee Washing Stations as a result of this project. The learning event was attended by key stakeholders working in the coffee sector in Rwanda, among cooperatives representatives, Districts, officials from National Agricultural Export Development Board, Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands and Development partners among others.