Coffee is a key component of many East African economies in terms of contribution to GDP, employment and foreign exchange earnings. In Rwanda, it is the main foreign exchange earner, making up approximately 30%.
Typically, coffee farmers in Rwanda are low-income agricultural labourers, despite possessing small land assets which provide a vital source of income to several million coffee growers, farm workers and their families. Women are the key source of labour in the East African coffee sector, forming 60-80% of the labour force, but they rarely receive direct economic benefits from the crop due to traditional gender roles surrounding money distribution within the household and land ownership.
Twin has been working on the TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) programme for two years in Rwanda, following on from many years working on various regional projects. With TMEA, Twin has been helping 10 cooperatives to gain Fairtrade certification and improve their coffee quality. The new project with Challenges Worldwide will provide much-needed business support for these cooperatives. This support will increase operational capacity and build resilience around each element of the coffee value chain, helping these cooperatives to increase access to international markets.
Challenges Worldwide is a Scottish organisation who have supported small and medium enterprises in emerging economies for over 20 years, and have a wealth of experience to draw on. This collaboration brings together Challenges’ experience of utilising tools and processes built up over 15 years, and senior business mentor experience, with Twin’s experience working with coffee producer organisations and linking them to speciality markets.
Although Twin and Challenges Worldwide have already collaborated in some initiatives (like ACRE), it is through this new project in Rwanda funded by the Scottish Government (‘Rwanda Coffee Market Building for People and Prosperity’) that we will pilot this joint approach.
COMBINING BUSINESS MANAGEMENT SUPPORT WITH MARKET ACCESS
The project is supporting eight producer organisations in South and Western regions of Rwanda and compliments the work we have been conducting with them through the TMEA project.
The project has a duration of four-and-a-half years, starting in October 2017. Its aims are:
- To increase operating capacity of the 8 cooperatives by improving the business capacity of the organisations in key areas (led by Challenges Worldwide);
- To strengthen the coffee value chain, leading to an increase in access to international markets by focusing on quality standards, market access, training and support in contract negotiation and access to finance (led by Twin);
- To strengthen community resilience and reduce livelihood barriers by community mapping, peer to peer networks (led by Enactus).
The project has also a component on Climate Justice also funded by the Scottish government, which aims to promote alternative sources of energy for washing stations.