||Rwanda Musasa Cooperative (PEARL project supported)
Fully washed and screen-dried
Cup profile/tasting notes: Sweet Bourbon coffee with a distinctive floral edge, Musasa has a bright and clean cup
Additional information: PEARL's Coffee Program: Restoring the Potential of the Rwandan Coffee Industry
In the early 1990s, coffee was Rwanda's most lucrative export. The country exported 45,000 tons of coffee in 1990, helping to support millions of Rwanda's small-scale farmers. Events in the 1990s, however, decimated Rwanda's coffee industry. Most importantly, the 1994 genocide claimed the lives of nearly a million Rwandans, destroying Rwanda's economy and erasing much of the specialized knowledge needed to export coffee profitably. Simultaneously, world coffee prices plummeted in the 1990s due to increased worldwide production and consolidation of purchasing by multinational corporations. The price of low-grade coffee has decreased by over 50% since 1990, bringing hardship to millions of coffee farmers in Rwanda and throughout the world. For Rwandans, however, the added burden of a genocide has made production of coffee especially difficult. The world price of low-grade coffee is now below the cost of production for millions of Rwandan farmers, and as a result, millions of coffee trees in Rwanda are not harvested. Rwanda currently produces less than half the amount of coffee it produced in 1990.
Despite this disastrous chain of events, Rwanda's coffee sector has retained tremendous potential. Rwanda's climate, altitude, and high-quality bourbon-variety coffee trees give it the ability to produce high-quality coffee for the specialty coffee market. As a niche market, specialty coffee has seen sharply rising prices over the last 10 years (today, low-grade coffee sells for 28 US cents per kilo on average; specialty coffee earns 80 cents per kilo). PEARL's coffee program is designed to rebuild Rwanda's agricultural institutions, production capability, and human capital so that the country's small farmers can sell their coffee directly to buyers in the specialty market and receive high prices for their product.
PEARL pursues this goal primarily by creating and supporting coffee cooperatives. Cooperatives allow Rwanda's small growers combine their harvests into container-sized shipments, instead of tiny parcels produced by individual farms. This in turn enables them to sell coffee directly to foreign markets instead of to domestic markets or exporters. More importantly, if a cooperative can consistently produce container-sized quantities of high-quality coffee, its members can sell their beans in the specialty coffee market and receive appropriately high prices for their product.
PEARL has succeeded in organizing 12 cooperatives, and has helped three cooperatives build coffee washing stations. These coffees are now exported to Specialty Coffee buyers around the world. As a result farmers' income has more than doubled, allowing them to purchase essential supplies that were previously unattainable.
A successful cooperative needs more than a washing station and an influx of capital. Growers in the cooperative must understand the coffee market; they must know what kind of bean buyers are looking for; how to grow such a bean; how to identify which members produce high quality beans; and how to combine lots into a consistent, high-quality exportable product. Also, growers must be able to organize the cooperative and distribute its revenue fairly. PEARL works with cooperatives and Rwandan agricultural institutions to build all of this knowledge.
In August of 2004, for example, PEARL ran a course in coffee cupping that trained farmers to identify the quality and distinctive flavor of their coffee. This allows the cooperative to weed out defective or low-quality lots, and to pay farmers based on the quality of the coffee they produce. This in turn creates incentive for farmers to increase the quality of their beans. Farmers' ability to cup coffee is critical to their ability to produce specialty coffee.
PEARL also works to rebuild Rwanda's agricultural research capabilities. PEARL has partnered with Texas A&M and Michigan State to educate dozens of Rwandans in Agricultural Science in the United States. Similarly, PEARL works to extend the techniques developed at Rwanda's agricultural research institutions to production in the field.
By helping Rwandans form successful and profitable cooperatives, and rebuilding Rwanda's research capacity, PEARL's coffee program will continue to increase the quality and quantity of coffee being exported from Rwanda for years to come. In so doing, PEARL will make a lasting impact on thousands of Rwandan small farmers.
Musasa Cooperative (also known as the Dukundekawa Cooperative) was legally incorporated in 2002 and is located in Ruli sector, Rushashi district. The cooperative has been producing high-quality, fully washed coffee since 2003. Musasa is one of the larger cooperatives in Rwanda with around 800 members, 400 of these are women and 150 also work in the mill. The cooperative now has 2 pulping stations to process the deliveries of red cherries. Annual production is now around 100-120 tons of green coffee.
In 2003, Musasa cooperative build a washing station in Rushashi district with the help of a FRW40 million donation from the Rwandan Ministry of Defense. The donation allowed the cooperative to complete the station in time for the 2003 growing season. In exchange for the grant, Musasa cooperative agreed to donate 10% of its net profits each year to a government fund that will be used to construct other washing stations throughout Rwanda.
Musasa cooperative's operations are currently financed privately, but with the help of Project PEARL, the cooperative hopes to find low-interest financing via a nonprofit or government agency.
By producing quality that meets the quality standards demanded by the international market, Musasa cooperative drastically increased the quality of life for its members. By operating in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner, the cooperative has ensured that future generations of Rwandans will be able to obtain a high quality of life through the coffee industry.
In the cup there is sweetness you would expect from a fine re bourbon with a floral hint that makes it light and bright. This is a wonderful mouthfeel and a creamy aftertaste. In many ways I'm reminded of a great Yirgacheffe and a fine Kenyan mixed together.
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