In May 2017, a team from Illy caffè, led by Mr Stefano Scanferla, responsible for coffee procurement, visited one of Rwacof’s Coffee Washing Stations, Mashesha, located in the Western Province of Rwanda. After his visit, it became very clear: whilst the adaptation of best agricultural practices is becoming more and more popular in Rwanda’s coffee sector, access to inputs remains a challenge.
Mashesha is one of several processing units owned by Rwacof Exports Ltd and has been taken under its management in 2013. Its estimated production lies at 600MT of cherries, processing takes mainly place from February to May. Mashesha is working with about 1,000 growers that are grouped into 41 so-called “producer organizations”. Each group consists of a maximum of 30 farmers with one “lead farmer” at its head to attend the trainings diffused by the station managers under the guidance of Kahawatu Foundation Rwanda.
During his interaction with the growers, Stefano visited the farm of Faustin, who owns about 850 coffee trees. When Mr.Stefano asked Faustin why his trees looked so unhealthy, Faustin explained that he does not have access to pruning scissors; but he promised to buy them from his next savings in order to properly take care of his coffee trees. “ I like coffee because after each season I make a home roast and grind traditionally in order to get coffee powder; then I mix with hot water to make a cup of coffee. You see, we old men in the village, we like to drink our coffee,” Faustin continues.
When back from his trip, Stefano briefed Miss Anna Illy about his experience and she immediately took action! Thanks to a very generous donation, the growers of Mashesha Coffee Washing Station do now have access to materials, such as pruning scissors, spraying pumps, personal protection equipment, and secateurs.
“I had the chance to be the one selected and visited by foreigners. I was very happy when Stefano visited my farm and made some recommendations. They were very concerned about the sustainability of my trees and they spent about an hour with me telling me how I should care for my farm because they liked the coffee from my farm and they would like to keep buying it. I still can’t believe they have sent all these equipment to me and to my producer organization. It is unbelievable. I don’t know if I will see that particular man again as I would like to give him another big hug!”
But the support did not stop just there… A few weeks later, one of the communities primary schools “SHARA”, located about 1.5km from Mashesha CWS, received an entire football kit from the Illy team. The school was built in 1955 and has currently around 1,450 students enrolled of which many are coming from coffee farming households.
“The students were happy to receive the equipment and appreciated the initiative; they wish if possible to be visited by Illy in the future and show how they play football,” explained one of the owners of the school.
The community leaders also showed their appreciation by informing the visitors that they would like to grow about 3,000 coffee trees on one of the available plots at the school. They have asked Rwacof and Kahawatu for technical support to maintain the plantation.