Café de Gisagara is run by Good Neighbors, an NGO from Korea. The project began in 2014. Before the project began there was little attention given to coffee quality and little infrastructure existed.
The Gisagara region is fairly stable today with relations between Hutus and Tutsis steadily improving. There is a small population of Congolese refugees living in the area. The region is heavily reliant on agriculture. Yields are low at the moment due to a lack of quality farming inputs and low earnings for farmers to invest back into their farms with. Organic farming practices are a priority, but many farmers are currently struggling against pests such as armyworm and various beetle species. Climate change is also effecting the region and resulting in a shorter rainy season. Despite these challenges the level of poverty in the region has been slowly declining.
Coffee prices are largely influenced by the government of Rwanda. Coffee farmers are paid for their raw cherry, with an incentive program in place to encourage the picking of only ripe cherries, and all processing is handled by the staff of Café de Gisagara. Coffee farmers in Rwanda at the time of writing are being paid about 25 cents per lb for their raw cherries. Farms are small enough that typically no hired help is needed. Farmers and their families manage their own farms and harvesting.
Income from the sale of the coffee by Café de Gisagara is reinvested into the region in different ways. A training farm was developed by the NGO, and a number of infrastructure investments were made, all to help improve production quality. Better farming techniques, to reverse soil degradation, are being taught. The aim of the project is to reduce poverty by helping the farmers to improve their coffee quality and the income the crop brings, but also by giving them the means by which they can do this sustainably.
About Rwandan Coffee
Coffee was first brought to Rwanda by the Germans in 1904 although control of the country shifted to Belgium in 1919, after World War 1. Belgian control of Rwanda was brutal. Coffee farmers were taxed heavily under slavish conditions. Quantity over quality was the name of the game. High quality varietals proliferated though. Beautiful red Bourbon trees made up nearly 100% of the countries crops at one time and estimates still range from 80% to as high as 98% for the amount of Bourbon still cultivated. Most coffee is grown towards the western part of the country. Unfortunately, the country has become notorious for a defect in coffee taste referred to as potato defect. This defect is much more prolific in the northwest than in the south of the country. It's cause is still being debated, though it is our belief that it is caused by larvae or beetles in the soil feeding on the roots of the trees. An issue that could be corrected through targeted organic fertilization.
Coffee continued to be produced with little attention toward quality all the way up into the 1990s when world coffee prices dropped and the Rwandan Genocide nearly destroyed the country. Many of the farmers in Rwanda today are women as a result of the genocide. The coffee industry in Rwanda suffered greatly for over a decade until it started to see a recovery in the mid 2000s. The rise of Specialty Coffee in the global market, and a downturn in mineral exports, have been the most significant drivers for the resurgence in Rwandan coffee. Despite issues with climate change, soil degradation and pests Rwandan coffee can easily be some of the best in the world.