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Rwandan “Maraba” Coffee Co-Operative Celebrates 15 year Partnership

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A coffee co-operative in the formerly war-torn country of Rwanda is celebrating a fruitful 15 year partnership with Union Hand-Roasted Coffee, based in East London. Since the Abahuzamugambi Ba Kawa Co-operative started working with Union in 2002, it has enjoyed an almost five-fold increase in green (exportable) coffee.

As a result of this relationship, the Abahuzamugambi Ba Kawa Co-operative, based in Southern Rwanda region of Huye, (formally called Maraba), has produced an astounding 900,000 kilograms of speciality coffee. In the past year alone, thanks to the accumulative effects of investment, training and support from the London coffee business, the cooperative increased production of green coffee by over 150%. Around a third of the coffee produced by the Abahuzamugambi Ba Kawa Co-operative is enjoyed in the UK, after being hand-roasted by Union.

After Rwanda’s devastating civil war, despite coffee being one of the country’s primary natural resources, it was often of poor quality, with producers receiving paltry and inconsistent payment. This made planning for the future and achieving sustainable development extremely difficult for producers.

Since 2002, a directed programme to produce high-quality specialty coffee has helped to revolutionise the fortunes of the Maraba region and today, speciality coffee accounts for 60% of the Rwanda’s foreign exchange earnings.

The success of coffee co-operatives like Abahuzamugambi Ba Kawa has led to nationwide job creation and increasing numbers of inhabitants with access to healthcare, education and clean water supply.

With the assistance and support of Union Hand-Roasted Coffee sourcing initiative Union Direct Trade, the Abahuzamugambi Ba Kawa Co-operative has increased coffee quality year-on-year through a continuous series of operational improvements. These include all-important construction of coffee washing stations and a centralised post-harvest processing facility where farmers deliver their fresh picked coffee. This has been accompanied by increased training on the interventions needed to produce high quality coffee.

The success of the booming industry has been the primary driver of social cohesion and mobility across the country, reducing unemployment levels and bringing  communities from different ethnicities  to work together as Rwandans to perpetuate the success of the specialty coffee trade.

Theophile Biziyaremye, General Manager of the Abahuzamugambi Ba Kawa Co-operative says: “Before the co-operative, farmers processed their coffee at home but this meant the quality was low – partly because they never actually got to taste the coffee they were producing. They were also not paid very much. Now we are producing a much higher quality each year which means farmers get paid higher prices, helping them to build for the future.”

With the world facing a potential coffee shortage in the next three to five years, sustainable development in coffee production has never been a more vital issue. Each year, 1.7bn cups of coffee are sold in the UK, and this number is rising fast. If coffee farmers are not paid a sustainable price for their crops, there is little incentive to produce high quality coffee and if this dynamic continues the potential coffee shortage could be severe.

Union Hand-Roasted Coffee believes that sustainable development is the only way to mitigate this risk. That’s why Union Direct Trade was created – the coffee sourcing initiative that significantly improves the livelihoods of farmers, through the production of high-quality coffee. Union Direct Trade is about building long-term relationships with small-scale farmers. This not only includes paying at least 25% over the International Fairtrade minimum price, but offering continued support and guidance as well – not to mention a direct route to a speciality coffee market with a trusted partner.

Union Co-founder Steven Macatonia says: “We work with farmers in 12 different countries all over the world and see the benefits of this approach each and every day, but nowhere more so than in Rwanda. 20 years ago, Rwanda was simply known for commodity quality coffee, but is now producing coffee in the top 2% quality-wise in the world. Co-operatives such as Abahuzamugambi Ba Kawa and others we work with such as Cocagi, are driving economic development in a country that was absolutely devastated merely two decades ago. As a result of this coffee innovation, Rwanda is prospering once again.”

Theophile adds: “Our close relationship with Union Hand-Roasted is hugely appreciated. Not only have they helped us to increase the quality and quantity of our coffee, but we’ve worked with them to increase production. By giving us pre-finance, knowledge, support and access to the UK market over such a long period of time, working with Union allows us to enjoy life today and build for tomorrow.”

Facts about coffee production in Rwanda

  • Coffee has been grown in Rwanda since the 1930s
  • After the Rwandan civil war, coffee prices were low with an export price of about USD1/Kg. In contrast when Union Hand-Roasted Coffee started to work with Rwandan coffee producers in 2002, it was offering about USD2.5/kg and now offers over USD5/kg
  • Over 500,000 farm families currently produce coffee and production ranges from 267,000 to 420,000 bags per year
  • Known as the “land of a thousand hills”, Rwanda is blessed with ideal conditions:  high altitude and rich soils perfect for producing speciality coffee. Because Rwanda has steep inclines, harvesting and transporting coffee is difficult, necessitating the use of specially-modified bikes to bring the coffee to Coffee Washing Stations.
  • Rwanda hosted the prestigious Cup of Excellence world coffee competition on numerous occasions. Rwanda is the first African country to participate in this competition.

Facts about Union Hand-Roasted, Maraba Coffee

  • Tasting notes: Fruity, full bodied and perfectly balanced. The world’s first Rwanda specialty coffee. Grown by Abahuzamugambi Ba Kawa.
  • Details: Light roast, washed and sun-dried and grown at an altitude of 1750m above sea level
  • Q grade: 87+ placing it in the top 2% of coffee in the world by quality
  • Union Hand-Roasted Maraba coffee is sold whole bean and ground in Waitrose and Ocado, and freshly-roasted from www.unionroasted.com

Environment

4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again

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reuse reduce recycle plastic bottles etc
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Vanatchanan | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/vanatchanan%20buahom

As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.

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Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.

Jars and Containers

Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.

Soda Bottles

An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.

Plastic Bags

Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!

Seeds

If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!

Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!

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Environment

These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money

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eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/cyano

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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