Rwanda Karambi Natural Farmgate Initiative
Karambi washing station is one of the stations Sucafina keep on returning to year after year. Its smooth and balanced profile with spice notes complements the strong acidic fruity character so common in this region.
About the coffee
Every bag purchased contributes to a Farmgate Initiative project.
Karambi is located in the Karambi sector in the Nyamasheke district, Western province and borders Nyungwe Forest National Park. It was built in 2016 and is, to date, the sole station that Rwacof has built from the ground up. The altitude in the region starts at 1,700 and extends up to 2,000 meters above sea level.
The washing station is a four-hour drive west of Kigali. On the top of the hill, like a gateway to Karambi station, is a big school, also named Karambi. The school has a wide range of grades from primary school to high school. Passing through this busy, energetic gateway unnoticed is simply not possible. Hundreds of active and excited children and busy people bustle around this station.
In a reflection of this energy, Karambi station seems to never stop during the nearly four full months of the harvest. The station has up to 120 staff in peak season. Every step of the process is continuously attended to by experienced eyes.
The Nyamasheke district has the highest concentration of washing stations in all of Rwanda. The region lies along the Kivu Lake where growing conditions are optimal. Good altitude, great soil, favourable rainfall — basically everything to produce the best coffees — can be found here.
Harvest & Post Harvest
Karambi serves a wide range of farmers in the region, and over 66% of the farmers delivering to the washing station are women!
After purchasing cherry from producers, Karambi sends the cherry through a strict sorting process. First, washing station staff remove any lower quality cherry through flotation. Then, a specially trained staff visually inspects the remaining cherry for any visual defects.
After selection and rinsing, cherry goes straight to raised beds. They are spread out in a very thin layer and raked frequently to ensure even drying. It takes around 3 weeks for cherry to dry on the raised beds.
In concert with Sucafinas sustainability partner, Kahawatu Foundation, Sucafina Rwanda invests heavily in yield improvements, farmer training, quality improvement projects, environmental sustainability and other ways to increase farmer livelihoods.
Sucafina Rwanda’s Farmer Development Program in partnership with the London School of Economics (LSE) supports farmers with training in Good Agricultural Practices and access to loans, farm inputs and farm services. A new soil health initiative uses soil analysis data that Sucafina Rwanda collected to identify farms where soil is too acidic. Lime, along with education about application, is distributed to these farmers to help improve soil quality. Additionally, seedling nurseries provide up to 4 million seedlings per year to help farmers renovate their rootstock.
Sucafina Rwanda also has many projects that are designed to support farmers’ overall livelihoods. They focus on gender equality and support several women’s cooperatives by helping them access land, seedlings and reach a market for their coffees. They offer trainings on financial literacy and alternative income-generating activities.
The Farmer Hub program built retail shops that buy other crops from farmers and sell them to families and schools at fair prices. These retail shops help promote income diversification by creating a market for other crops and they supply nutritious foods at competitive prices. The Farmer Hub program also offers loans to farmers as part of the farm management program.
On the environmental side, Sucafina Rwanda has worked with partners to help install solar panels at 2 washing stations that are off the electrical grid. Sucafina Rwanda’s dry mill already have a 50 kilowatt-per-hour solar panel set up on their roof. They’ve also mapped carbon emissions in their coffee supply chain and are starting projects to half their emissions per kg of coffee. Two ways they’re accomplishing this is by facilitating a transition from inorganic to organic fertilizer and further improve waste (water and pulp) management at the wet mills. They’re also working with Trade in Space to map deforestation in the supply chain so that they can begin to work with farmers to reduce deforestation and improve forested areas in the supply chain.
Above all, Sucafina Rwanda’s exceptional attention to detail during post-harvest activities ensures the best quality coffee possible. From the moment cherry enters the washing station until it is milled and bagged for export, Sucafina Rwanda keeps stringent quality controls in place. They know, as we do, that high-quality coffee is crucial for delivering benefit all along the supply chain.
Coffee in Rwanda
Despite its turbulent history, today Rwanda is one of the specialty coffee world’s darlings – for good reason! Our sister company in Rwanda does an amazing job of bringing the best that Rwanda has to offer to roasters around the world.
German missionaries and settlers brought coffee to Rwanda in the early 1900s. Largescale coffee production was established during the 1930 & 1940s by the Belgian colonial government. Coffee production continued after the Belgian colonists left. By 1970, coffee had become the single largest export in Rwanda and accounted for 70% of total export revenue. Coffee was considered so valuable that, beginning in 1973, it was illegal to tear coffee trees out of the ground.
Between 1989 and 1993, the breakdown of the International Coffee Agreement (ICA) caused the global price to plummet. The Rwandan government and economy took a hard hit from low global coffee prices. The 1994 genocide and its aftermath led to a complete collapse of coffee exports and vital USD revenue, but the incredible resilience of the Rwandan people is evident in the way the economy and stability have recovered since then.
Modern Rwanda is considered one of the most stable countries in the region. Since 2003, its economy has grown by 7-8% per year and coffee production has played a key role in this economic growth. Coffee has also played a role in Rwanda’s significant advancements towards gender equality. New initiatives that cater to women and focus on helping them equip themselves with the tools and knowledge for farming have been changing the way women view themselves and interact with the world around them.
Today, smallholders propel the industry in Rwanda forward. The country doesn’t have any large estates. Most coffee is grown by the 400,000+ smallholders, who own less than a quarter of a hectare. The majority of Rwanda’s coffee production is Arabica. Bourbon variety plants comprise 95% of all coffee trees cultivated in Rwanda.
COFFEE GRADE: Scr.15
FARM/COOP/STATION: Karambi washing station
ALTITUDE: Washing station – 1,893 meters above sea level; Farms -1,700 to 2,000 meters above sea level
OWNER: 755+ smallholders working with Sucafina Rwanda
SUBREGION/TOWN: Karambi, Nyamasheke
REGION: Western Province
FARM SIZE: <1 hectare on average
HARVEST MONTHS: March – June
This coffee and information has been supplied to Bell’s Beans by Sucafina:
How to store coffee at home
To keep your coffee as fresh as possible, you need to protect your coffee from air, sunlight, heat, and moisture. These all will contribute to making it stale and lose flavour.
We suggest keeping your coffee in an airtight container, in a cool, dry cupboard. Our bags all have a de-gassing valve, to let out CO2 that the beans produce once roasted, it’s not just there to sniff the coffee, and a reusable ziplock. So if you don’t have a fancy coffee jar just push the air out the bag, zip the lock and give the bag another squeeze to get any remaining air out.
Do not store your coffee in the fridge. Roasted coffee absorbs moisture from the air (hygroscopic) and will also take up surrounding aromas. The aromas and moisture levels in the fridge will react with the coffee and delicate flavours will deteriorate.
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