Saturday 13 April 2024
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Coffee companies from New Zealand help flood-ravaged farmers in Rwanda

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KIGALI, Rwanda – In recent years there has been piqued interest from the New Zealand cafe scene in coffee grown in Rwanda. While these coffee beans are often used as a single origin specialty coffee on request, you may have also been drinking it without realising.

For example, Wellington roastery Flight Coffee uses Rwandan beans as a component in all of their blends – that is, anything you order without specifying the origin of the coffee. In doing so, they have been a huge supporter of bringing coffee beans grown in Rwanda to New Zealand through supply chains that help producers receive stable, sustainable prices.

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But after catastrophic events, Rwandan suppliers are in jeopardy, and New Zealand coffee companies have reached out to help.

While much of the media was devoting its attention to COVID-19 in early May, various coffee-growing regions throughout East Africa were also being hammered by steady downpours, flash flooding, and landslides.

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Nyabihu, a small community in Northern Rwanda, whose communities rely heavily on coffee for their livelihoods, are now trying to pick up the pieces after being hit by a double whammy – COVID-19 and mass flooding.

Nyabihu District is home to two coffee washing stations, Shyira and Vunga. New Zealand-owned, Muraho Trading Company (MTCo.) started Shyira and partnered with Vunga in 2017. MTCo’s aim is to improve living standards for the Nyabihu communities, while showcasing the best of Rwandan coffee around the world.

MTCo imports coffee via Wellington-based social enterprise Raw Material, to supply prominent New Zealand roasteries, including Flight Coffee, Rich Coffee Roasters, and Vanguard Specialty Coffee co. MTCo and Raw Material have teamed up with coffee buyers from around the world to raise funds through a GoFundMe page.

Flight Coffee is also giving a cut of every Rwandan coffee sold to help the Nyabihu community.
“Resources are thin on the ground in the best of times… but with COVID-19 taking its toll on the economy, our friends in Rwanda are relying on us to hear their request for help. Major infrastructure is being rebuilt by the government, but our support is needed on a more personal level; immediately this means clothes, shelter, food and water. We kiwis are known worldwide as helpful, friendly, sustainability-conscious people, and I think we’ll rally together for this cause as we always do. Especially given how close we are, how interdependent our communities are through coffee,” says Matt Graylee of Raw Material.

In the May floods, 28 people from Nyabihu District lost their lives. In addition, 325 homes, livestock, coffee trees, and other crops were all washed away. Vital community and utility infrastructure have been destroyed including 36 classrooms, 12 churches, a healthcare centre, the Vunga market, and electrical and water supplies.
“These floods and mudslides were the worst catastrophic event in our lifetimes. We lost friends and families. Almost everyone in Nyabihu is affected; houses, roads, bridges, crops in fields, and animals were all impacted,” says Evariste Hagumimana, manager of Shyira coffee washing station.

Coffee farmer Mbarushima Alphonse from Shyira lost everything in the landslides. He shared, “We are sheltering in classrooms. Everything is gone. We really thank you for showing us that we are together and trying to help us – about this we are very happy.”

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