Rwandan Coffee: Improving Rural Livelihoods Through Cooperative Exchanges

Rwandan Coffee: Improving Rural Livelihoods Through Cooperative Exchanges

RwandaVancouver, Canada
Project Stage:
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We offer an innovative strategy for improving the livelihoods of smallholder coffee growers in Rwanda, a country highly dependent on coffee for export revenue and rural employment. Our plan is to target rural cooperatives and enterprises involved in coffee value chains and facilitate farmer exchanges that will result in increased incomes and greater capacity to participate in global coffee markets

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The rationale for this farmer exchange is premised on the fact that Rwanda is highly dependent on coffee production and export to generate national revenue while, at the same time, global coffee producing standards are becoming more stringent. By helping to facilitate the growth in social capital among Rwandan coffee farmers, we hope to reduce chances of global market marginalisation, while positioning Rwanda at the forefront of ethical coffee suppliers. This is important for a number of reasons, including but not limited to achieving sustainable socio-economic growth, enhancing gender equity, preventing future conflict, and developing greater economic resiliency in the face of global commodity price fluctuations.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We propose to facilitate a coffee farmer exchange program within Rwanda. The program design will be driven by the participating coffee farmers but in close collaboration with all stakeholders including the program leads, government, and civil society organisations. There will be opportunity for focus groups, specialty workshops, field trips, education sessions, equipment and resource sharing, fund development, marketing and networking. The initial exchange will be run as a pilot project where careful monitoring and evaluation will take place in order to inform future improvements in the program. The end objective is to establish a model program of farmer exchanges which can then be applied to the coffee producing markets of other developing countries.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Our project objectives fall into three categories: 1) improving farmer relationships (between producers, between coffee cooperatives, and between producers and related organisations), 2) improving farmer participation (particularly for women), and 3) improving business (product quality and local market capacity). As an example, by strengthening producer relationships and organisation, this farmer exchange program will reduce the costs of doing business while increasing production efficiency. This will be achieved through holding regular farmer meetings to exchange knowledge, ideas and resources as well as identifying incentives and barriers to increased cooperation; leading exchanges between cooperatives and private coffee washing stations; developing cooperative business models as well as mechanisms to better meet delivery targets in terms of quantity, quality and timeliness); and identifying appropriate avenues for political representation and market bargaining power.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Many development projects have already been done on the Rwandan coffee sector. USAID has provided technical assistance, training, and financial support with ACDI-VOCA and the Michigan State and Texas A&M University-led PEARL and SPREAD Projects. IFAD had a seven-year program (2002-2009) that supported the development of coffee washing stations, producer cooperatives and high-quality Arabica coffee. From 2008-2012, TechnoServe worked to improve Rwandan coffee quality and processing, business management and quality assessment. Since 2007, the Clinton Hunter Development Initiative has also been helping coffee farmers to increase production, sales and sustainable profits. None of these groups have run exchange programs like ours but we will build on existing connections and recent activities.

Founding Story

On her first trip to Africa, one of the founders saw coffee trees for the first time and realized how little she knew about the production of foods commonly consumed by Canadians. She was particularly surprised to see that coffee farmers were poor and hungry, despite growing food for a living. Based on this experience, she pursued a Masters degree studying the potential for fair trade of coffee grown in Rwanda. Farmers explained that a major barrier to fair trade was cooperation among farmer cooperatives and a voice in global certification program standard setting. Our project aims to fill this gap and facilitate farmers to acheive their goal.
About You
Liu Institute for Global Issues - UBC
About You
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About Your Organization
Organization Name

Liu Institute for Global Issues - UBC

Organization Country

, BC, Vancouver

Country where this project is creating social impact
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How long has your organization been operating?

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How long have you been in operation?

Still in idea phase, but looking to launch soon

Social Impact
What solution(s) does your initiative address to help emerging entrepreneurs and small businesses grow and thrive in underserved communities? (select all applicable)

Access to financing, Access to talent, Access to supply chains, Access to technology, Access to economic opportunity.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

Given that this project is in the ideas stage, we are currently sourcing funds in order to begin the pilot session. Once that happens, we will be in a better position to assess the impact of our work.

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

Our expected outcomes in the next few years through out Rwanda include: stronger capacity to participate in global markets, reduced cost of doing business, increased production efficiency, increased social capital, greater farmer influence over decision making, enhanced business and leadership skills, reduced producer fragmentation, strengthened bargaining power, stronger market influence, more favourable market access conditions, greater access to resources otherwise unavailable, greater gender equity, attraction of higher prices for specialty coffee, development of sustainable livelihoods, and development of locally relevant entrepreneurialism.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

While a normal level of vigilance is required, personal security is not a concern in Rwanda. The potential impact of risks on the operations of the project relate to management; however, the risk of mismanagement is low due to the fact that the project team has strong connections in Rwanda and in the coffee sector in particular.

We foresee no risks to our ability to properly protect funding once it is obtained.

Environmental vulnerability, social and cultural issues (including gender equality) and the capacity of chosen partners will all impact the success of the exchanges. As the need for the project was outlined by coffee farmers themselves, we believe that the risks to the project are minimal. We will continue to help mitigate these risks by ensuring farmer involvement throughout.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

A 15-20% increase in overall coffee cooperative membership within Rwanda.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Design, market, carry-out and evaluate locally relevant farmer exchanges in partnership with program participants.

Task 2

Develop coop member incentive system and stronger democratic operation of coop boards.

Task 3

Identify and make use of technical and financial assistance opportunities for coffee cooperatives.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

A 10-15% increase in quantity and average price of exported cooperatively produced Rwandan coffee on the international market.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Increase coop representation in multistakeholder platforms and setting of certification standards.

Task 2

Develop inter-coop collaborative strategies to insure buyers against coffee defects and quantity failures.

Task 3

Increase the number of coops with Fair Trade certification.

Tell us about your partnerships

So far, our partnerships are preliminary. The Liu Institute sees strong potential in this project and has agreed to provide start-up funds, funding expertise, and project development support. We hope to secure finances from CIDA and technological and financial support from SAP / Ashoka Changemakers.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

As professional researchers and development practitioners, Sara and Tanya are available to provide expertise in this regard.

Our program proposed for this competition would benefit from investors, marketing support (both in Canada and Rwanda), presentation space at conferences, and supply chain management resources.