More coffee trees to fill another cup and support the smallholder farmer
Whether you’re in need of a boost or you’re just the average coffee lover, waking up to the smell of roasted beans is what often gets us through the day. Coffee is easy to enjoy, however, we often don’t realise what it takes to get this wake-up cup into our hands.
For the smallholder farmer, this cup of coffee means an immense amount of work with the prospect of a very low return. “We can only harvest coffee once a year, but we have to remove weeds four times a year,” says Paul Baziki, a smallholder coffee farmer in Rwanda.
“Coffee is a time-consuming and expensive crop to grow, so we’d like to get a good price for the harvest.”
Better price and processing
Paul has been farming since 1970. He knows the daily struggle of working long hours – planting, picking and processing coffee – to barely make ends meet. It wasn’t until recently that Paul finally found the support he needed to ensure that his coffee farm would not only survive, but flourish.
The success of his farming began to change once he started selling his coffee to Oikocredit partner Impexcor. The family-run company was originally founded in 1977 and purchases coffee cherries from smallholder farmers, farmers’ associations and cooperatives. Impexcor, Paul explains, pays him a better price than other buyers and also processes the coffee for him, saving him an immense amount of time and energy. Oikocredit invests in Impexcor because it is not only ‘committed to developing the coffee business with the best practices in the region’ but it also initiates ‘pro-people programmes which improve social cohesion, poverty reduction and economic development.’
“Before Impexcor was here it took me a lot of effort to process the harvest,” says Paul. “I needed to use a great deal of water, which made the process even more expensive. Since the Impexcor coffee washing station came to Kamanu in 2004, I’ve brought my harvest straight to the company. They buy the coffee, and I can return home with money. For me that makes a big difference.”
Improving the harvest
Coffee is the main crop for Paul and the other 1,800 farmers who sell their coffee to Impexcor. Delivering this crop can be a major expense and challenge for struggling famers who live far from the facility. In response to this challenge, Impexcor offers to collect the crop, breaking down another barrier that smallholder farmers face.
Impexcor also provides the farmers with agricultural inputs to improve the quality of the harvest. With a view to expanding its market and becoming more profitable, the company obtained Rainforest Alliance certification in 2015.
More trees help support the family
“Before Impexcor came I had only 1,000 coffee trees. When I noticed that the processing facilities of the factory saved me a lot of time and work, I added another 500 trees. Now, depending on the money I make, I can plant even more trees in order to have a bigger harvest.”
Replacement of older trees is extremely important for coffee famers. Without purchasing new trees, Paul would have faced extreme difficulties as the original trees from the 1970s were too old and no longer produced much coffee.
Paul has five sons and five daughters. “With coffee I earn the money I need for my family. Coffee has helped me to build our houses and to pay school fees for my children. Now all my boys have jobs – one of them is an electrician. All of them are responsible and feed their family. The youngest one lives near me in that house.” Paul points to one of the houses he has built for his large family.
Paul is 67 years old and has been growing coffee for more than 35 years. Now that he has a successful business with the help of Impexcor, his aspirations have grown. What are his plans for the future? “I plan to buy cows, in order to produce my own fertiliser. After that I want to expand my plantation to have a larger harvest and improve my family’s finances even more.”
Will the work become too much of a burden? “Even though I am old, I plan to manage the maintenance of my coffee plantation. I will use workers. I will not have to do hard labour any more, and the cows will help me pay for the services I need. This is how I will prepare for the future.”
Impexcor Limited has been an Oikocredit partner since 2015. The coffee processing company has built up a good reputation in the coffee market owing to its long experience in the industry. Oikocredit provided Impexcor with a loan of RWF 300 million (approximately € 350,000).