Rubavu and Rutsiru regions, Rwanda
FLO ID 2582
Coffee production in Rwanda began in the early 1900s, but became especially important following the 1994 genocide, where coffee was used to jump-start the economy.
Coopac is situated on volcanic mountain slopes in the west of Rwanda, where the soil id extremely rich. High altitudes and heavy rainfalls on the shores of Lake Kivu provide perfect growing conditions for one of the finest Arabica coffees in the world.
The co-operative was established in 2001 by Emmanuel Rwakagara Nzungize, who is now Chairman of the Board. After spending 40 years in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Emmanuel escaped homeland turmoil to return to his native country and re-establish the co-operative initially created by his father in the 1950s. The Coopérative pour la Promotion des Activités Café (tranlsation: Co-operative for the Promotion of Coffee Activities), as known as COOPAC, was established in the Rubavu and Rutsiro districts with 110 member farmers.
Today, COOPAC consists of 2,200 members from six areas and from six associations: Ack, Ubuzima, Tuzamurane, Kopabm, Abakundakurima, and Abanyamurava. As requirement for farmers to become members of COOPAC, they have to purchase two shares in the co-operative. This develops ownership, dictates transparency, and improves efficiency and quality.
COOPAC and Fairtrade
A defining aspect of COOPAC is that it was founded and is operated by local Rwandans. This is crucial in developing effective systems, communication and production as locals know the land and the people best. Co-operative president, Emmanuel, has a huge heart for both Rwandan people and Rwandan coffee. He understands the necessity for Fairtrade in the global climate, but is also driven to create a coffee of superior quality, and pursues this relentlessly both with farmers and in a personal capacity.
Superb coffee quality and sustainability certifications have enabled COOPAC to increase its efforts for the socio-economic development of its coffee members. All small farmers regularly participate to trainings and capacity building programmes around:
- Coffee production and environmental protection;
- Organisation and management of the co-operative;
- Preserving the quality of coffee;
- Gender and partnership between men and women;
- Administrative and financial management.
In addition, the Fairtrade Premium received upon sales of coffee beans to Fairtrade buyers, such as the South African Bean There Coffee Company, has allowed COOPAC to:
- Build two primary schools in Maziba and Busoro;
- Provide schools with needed supplies;
- Fund the construction of health centres;
- Sponsor the rehabilitation of infrastructures, such as bridges and roads critical for the transportation of coffee;
- Organise programmes for young people and women.
The intervention of COOPAC in the construction of schools and provision of schools supplies have increased enrollment in the area of COOPAC activities and improved working conditions. Living conditions in the members' households have also improved on level of health, education and social life because the increased income from coffee production is used to improve general living conditions, such as paying for health and education, building new houses, purchase livestock and invest in small businesses. The fight against gender-based violence has led to better coexistence between men and women.
(One of the schools funded with the Fairtrade Premium)
COOPAC coffee offers a light orange-blossom aroma with soft acidity and delightful body displaying sweet mandarin and caramel flavours. COOPAC won the 2010 Rwandan Cup of Excellence - a strict competition that selects the very best coffees produced in the country.
COOPAC and Bean There Coffee Company (South Africa)
Established in 2005 and the first roaster of Fairtrade certified coffee in South Africa, Bean There is serious about establishing the practices of trading fairly, directly and transparently in all areas of business. For Bean There, Fairtrade is not about special treatment but rather fair treatment, and it extends beyond farmers and producers to the staff of Bean There, their suppliers, and their customers. The company is committed to personally sourcing Fairtrade and organic African coffee and currently purchases from Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda. Coffee produced and roasted in Africa means low carbon footprint and minimal environmental impact.
COOPAC and Bean There are committed to:
- Put the role of women in the forefront:
In the region of Gisenyi, 10% of the coffee plantations are owned by women. Often old, they must support large families (between four and eight children each). Micro credit support, the creation of handicraft associations, the education of orphans, or access to assistance all contribute to the recognition of their contribution.
- Properly maintain the coffee farms and improve the quality of the coffee:
The birth of COOPAC gives the farmers the incentive to find ways to improve the quality of coffee and the quantity produced, because they are beginning to see the results of their labour.
- Improve environmental protection:
Coffee farmers play an important role in soil conservation and the struggle against erosion. Proper maintenance significantly benefits the environment.