Our activities and the way we implement them on the globe have impacts. These impacts may be positive or negative. However, most benefits are gained from proper management of environment by sustainably using natural resources and taking care of biodiversity and their habitat, not only in protected areas, but also in our surroundings. This should be the culture to adopt and leave to our descendants. We integrated environmental protection in our coffee production and processing activities, and the result was amazing.
We are coffee farmers since long ago, however we saw the difference from the project named “Implementing Conservation Agreements in Rwanda Coffee Sector”. This project was funded by Conservation International (CI) and it was implemented by the Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS). This pilot project was implemented in three districts, namely: Karongi, Muhanga and Nyamasheke; in collaboration with coffee farmers’ cooperative named “ABATERANINKUNGA BA SHOLI” (Muhanga), as well as two coffee companies, namely: KZ Noir Ltd./ Shangi Coffee Washing Station (Shangi CWS/ Nyamasheke) and Gitesi Mini Coffee Washing Station Ltd. (Gitesi Mini CWS Ltd./ Karongi).
This project aimed at supporting community engagement in conservation action, while empowering their nature based coffee enterprises in a way to sustain environment and livelihoods at household and producer organization level.
The activities implemented through this project allowed all the coffee washing stations (CWSs) mentioned above to be Rainforest Alliance (RA) certified, as their coffee production and processing systems were verified and confirmed to be in full compliance with sustainable agriculture standards. These activities are among others: Technical capacity building of farmers in sustainable agriculture practices, establishment of standardized waste water treatment infrastructures at the CWSs, teaching farmers and facilitating worm compost production to promote organic farming, establishment of tree nurseries and tree planting, internal audit conducted at household level by leader farmers to assess the level of compliance with standards required by Rainforest Alliance before certification audit.
Mr. MVUTSENABO Gaudens Claudien, the Manager of Shangi Coffee Washing Station said: “We benefited a lot from preparing for Rainforest Alliance certificate. So far, we won twice for Cup of Excellence, and once rewarded as first in performing sustainable coffee production in Rwanda. It increased the price up to Rwf 1500 paid to our partner farmers per 1 kg of cherries produced. Nowadays the certificate increased the value of our coffee at the market, therefore appreciated by many clients. In terms of environmental conservation, we planted a lot of agroforestry species mixed with coffee and in crop land, and we implemented soil conservation practices as one among RA requirements. In addition, we reduced soil and water pollution. We have built a wastewater treatment system that help as to treat wastewater from coffee washing prior to releasing into the water systems”. He added that they have a plan to maintain environmental protection in their agenda to improve coffee production and quality. He thanked ARCOS and CI, as well as other stakeholders who helped them to realize this achievement.
In addition to what Gaudens said, NSHIMIYE Aimable, the Manager of ABATERANINKUNGA BA SHOLI cooperative said: “Nowadays many buyers look for Sholi coffee because it is Rainforest Alliance certified. It was very difficult to convince buyers before we obtain this certificate. Today, cooperative members gain a premium of $0.44/ kg because of the certificate. Additionally, we cannot ignore the knowledge in environmental management and biodiversity conservation acquired by cooperative members through training in RA principles and guidelines”. He also thanked ARCOS, CI and cooperative members, and he called other coffee farmers’ cooperatives to get their coffee certified, to improve their coffee produce and quality.
Conservation Agreement is a good approach to achieve sustainable development, not only for farmers, but also for the country in general.
Download the project flyer, including achievements, here.
Integrating sustainable management of environment in our daily activities is a responsibility of each and every one.
By MVUTSENABO Gaudens Claudien and NSHIMIYE Aimable