Coffee farmers in Rwanda are tasting the sweet smell of success thanks to a Fairtrade project funded by the Scottish government.
The Rwandan Coffee Project has trained more 800 farmers in less than three years and the eight co-operatives taking part are now producing top-quality speciality coffee and have boosted their exports by 18%.
To mark these achievements, Edinburgh-based enterprise consultancy Challenges and partners the Scottish Fair Trade Forum are launching a film charting the journey from bean to cup.
The Perfect Balance, produced by Glasgow co-operative media co-op, focuses on the improved quality of the Rwandan crops and the connection with buyers and consumers here in Scotland.
President of the Sholi Co-operative, Martha Mukakarangwa, explains: “The training and investment has helped us a lot. Now whenever they go to harvest our pickers know how to select the right fruit to produce the highest grade of coffee for our cooperative. We also have ways to know exactly which coffee comes from which farmer.”
Glasgow-based roasters Matthew Algie have started importing the coffee.
Their Q-grader, Estelle MacGilp features in the film “cupping” the Sholi coffee.
“You’ve got the fruit mixed with the more syrupy, a hint of chocolate, just a nice mellow sort of creamy, milky chocolate. The quality is right up there and it’s consistent, which as a buyer is very important as well.”
The £1.2 million five-year project is now at its half-way point and a new report details the work that has taken place to improve the co-operatives’ access to international markets.
As well as an increase on the project’s targets, the report also describes a stream of wider innovations and improvements, such as the formation of start-up enterprises through better access to finance, training to address gender-based violence, improved access to finance, installation of clean tech and water filtration systems, and the creation of youth networks that promote business skills and entrepreneurialism.
Jenny Gilruth, Minister for Europe and International Development, said: “Scotland has a proud history of international development. In policy and practice, we remain committed to building upon Scotland’s legacy of positive contributions that extend far beyond our own borders.
“I am delighted by the successes of Challenges’ Rwanda Coffee Project, which brings social and economic benefits to communities in Rwanda while forging new friendships and trading links with people in Scotland.”
Eoghan Mackie, chief executive of Challenges, said: “I am massively proud of the achievements of everyone involved in this project that is connecting communities in Scotland and Rwanda.
As we look to COP 26 and the importance of hearing voices from those people on the front-line of climate change, this project aims to give these coffee co-operatives and their members a stronger, more equitable platform on the global marketplace.
I think Scottish consumers in particular will respond heartily to that story, and be further cheered by the positive impact – socially, economically and environmentally – that the project as a whole is having.”
Martin Rhodes, chief executive of the Scottish Fair Trade Forum, said: “This Fairtrade Fortnight highlights the role of Fairtrade in prioritising gender equality and empowerment. The Rwandan Coffee project is an outstanding example of prioritising gender equality and empowerment.”