It’s rare to be able to share coffee from Rwanda identify the specific producer responsible for it – most producers have farms of 300-600 trees, and their daily harvest is mixed with others received the same day at the washing station to make a lot large enough to process and sell.
Marie is one of these small producers, owning around 600 trees, and one of the reasons it’s possible to purchase her coffee specifically is because the Dukunde Kawa Cooperative (of which Marie is a member) now have their own dry mill. Having their own dry mill enables them to process smaller lots and control quality from the beginning of the process – the coffee cherry being delivered – right through to export.
Marie was born in 1955, and was widowed in the horrific Rwandan genocide of 1994. She was faced with the responsibility of caring for her five surviving children and rebuilding their life, and coffee has played a big part in helping her to do this. She also plans to invest in another 200 trees for her farm in the next year.
Marie processes her coffee at Ruli, which is Dukunde Kawa’s first and biggest washing station. Just over 800 cooperative members deliver coffee cherries to this washing station.
‘Dukunde Kawa’ means ‘love coffee’ in Kinyarwanda (Rwanda’s official language), symbolising the power of coffee as a means to improve the lives of those in rural communities.
Dukunde Kawa is a very creative and dynamic cooperative. Our sourcing partners for this coffee, Melbourne Coffee Merchants, have been working with this cooperative since 2008, and on each visit have seen the investments and improvements implemented by the cooperative to improve the lives of its members and their families, and to produce the best quality coffee possible.
For example, in 2014, the cooperative built a dry mill at their Ruli washing station. Owning a dry mill is very rare in rural Rwanda: this sort of infrastructure is usually found only in the urban centre of Kigali. It is a significant and commendable investment, and a great example of the cooperative’s commitment to produce high quality coffee. The dry mill has given them more control over the processing and has also allowed for more micro-lot separation and experimentation.
Also unusually for a smaller cooperative, Ruli has recently become Rainforest Alliance certified, UTZ certified, and Fair Trade certified. These certifications help the growing cooperative find different markets for the coffee. “We were already doing a lot of the things that were required for these certifications”, Issac the executive secretary of the cooperative explained, “We are always trying to be the best cooperative we can be. Getting the certifications has helped highlight what we are doing well and helped us raise our standards in other areas”.