We are now partners and shareholders in Motherland Farmers, a coffee project in Rwanda, and we’re more or less finished with our first season as coffee producers. It’s been a great learning experience, and we are getting more humble than ever before in regards to coffee farming and production of high quality coffee.
Motherland Farmers consists of a washing station at one location, next to Kamiro village, and very close by we have a farm with a total of 100 hectares, where 60 hectares will eventually be planted with coffee. We will also have cows and chickens for compost, and macadamia nuts for a secondary income. At the washing station we are also buying cherries from the surrounding smallholders. There are about 1000 farmers in the local community that we are supporting with fertilizer and training for a sustainable and more profitable coffee production.
Motherland Farmers is the name of the parent company, which owns a farm and the washing station. Kamiro is the name of the local village, so for now the coffee consists of cherries purchased from the surrounding farmers, and will be sold and branded as Kamiro.
In this post we will briefly try to give you an introduction to the project, but in a series of articles also try to share what it takes to start this operation from scratch and some of the experiences we have had so far as producers. You can read more about the whole story and concept of Motherland Farmers here: www.motherlandfarmers.no.
The production this year is mainly based on cherry purchase from local smallholder farmers as the Motherland Farmers farm at this point has a very low yield. The harvest is over and we bought about 140 tons of cherries. For Motherland this equals to a little less than 12 tons of the A-grades that Nordic Approach is offering. We have very high requirements on separation, sorting and quality control.
The company Motherland Farmers
Motherland Farmers started out of a vision by Fred Kasigwa. He discovered that he was the heir of a 105-hectare plot of land in Nyamagabe district. He wanted to produce coffee and to establish a coffee washing station to export coffee from the farm and for the about 1000 small farmers in the area. Coffee production has the potential to change the financial situation for the people in one of the very poor regions in Rwanda. Fred is a survivor of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. His life and money are now being spent to support and help the people that killed his entire family. This sends a strong message of reconciliation to the whole society.
Bente Denstad, a Norwegian woman, and Fred Kasigwa had for 17 years – since the genocide – been working on different aid projects in Rwanda. They lacked the necessary skills and finance to complete the vision of coffee production. Through Bente her friend Nora Hindar came on board as the managing director in 2011. They established a small investment company among friends and relatives for the project. Nora contacted us to get some professional advice, as they knew nothing about coffee.
We all got along really well from day one, and were totally on the same page regarding ambitions and quality. About a year later, in 2013, we established the formal partnership and during the same period we bought the extra land close to a water source to establish the washing station. We have the clear goal to produce Rwanda’s best coffees, trying to push the limits of what’s been done so far in the Rwandan coffee history. The goal is to experiment at all levels and stages of the process to take quality forward and set a new standard for what’s achievable in Rwanda.
Motherland Farmers is located in the Nyamagabe district in the Nyaruziza sector close to the village called Kamiro. The altitude where the farm is located is about 1750 MASL and the washing station is at 1820 MASL. The majority of the coffee both from the farm and the small holders is harvested from 1700 up to 2000 MASL.
Motherland Farmers is the name of the parent company having both the farm and the wet mill. They are located relatively close to each other, but are still managed as two separate operations. That said, all the coffee from both the farm and the surrounding small holders are processed at the washing station.
Sustainability and farmer training
The concept is to give as much as we can back to the local community as we believe this will give us access to better coffees, while also increasing the average income for the farmers.
Through several organizations we have managed to raise funds and already start holding a lot of farmer trainings on agricultural practices, plant treatment, correct selection on picking, etc. to maximize quality and income. A typical farmer in the area has one or two hundred coffee trees each. By training they can potentially increase their yield from 1 kg of coffee cherries to 5 kgs of cherries per tree. We are also giving the 1000 households 2 Macadamia trees each for additional income. This is all still in the early phases and we are sure both Motherland Farmers and the farmers will see great results in the years to come as the training will continue.
Through Motherland we will also create:
- Jobs for hundreds of locals in the area at our farm and at our wet mill.
- Agronomy training in the area of cow and chicken stewardship
- A second income crop of Macadamia trees planted. Processing plant and market being established
- 12,000 people will gain from the Motherland Farmer initiative.
The coffees and products produced at Motherland Farmers will all be branded differently depending on flavor profile, where the cherries come from, and in the future also by the process, grading, and other improvements we make at the mill. We are still to determine exactly how to separate the coffees by area, how to give names, and how to establish brands. During this first year we are mainly producing two grades from the local surroundings. This is just the beginning — we are already figuring out the strategy for next season based on our experience this year. One thing is certain: the potential is huge — from day one we managed to produce truly high qualities with very distinct flavor profiles.
The goal is to work on three different quality levels.
Score of 88+ coffees.Unique top lots of rare quality. These will be microlots of limited volumes, 5 – 20 bags per lot. The goal is to take Rwandan coffee to a higher level.
Score of 86+ coffeesGreat coffees with unique flavor attributes, both medium-sized lots (40+ bags) for import by Nordic Approach, and potential direct shipment to medium/large roasters and importers looking for traceable quality coffees.
Score of 84+ CoffeesGood quality fully washed coffees for direct export to roasters and importers.
This is the first in a series of blog posts about this particular project in Rwanda. Stay tuned for more!
We have also made a short film about how we work with quality in Rwanda. You can watch it here: