From the Field

Monday, March 25, 2024

Rwanda Harvest Update 2024

Rwanda’s harvest is underway. With cherry flowing into washing stations, we spoke with Joel Karangwa, Specialty Supply Chain Officer, to learn more about the harvest and what we can expect in terms of quality and volume this year.

Here are three key takeaways Joel shared about the harvest:

  1. Rwanda’s harvest does generally flow in bi-annual cycles. With a modest 2023-crop we expect 2024 to be around 20-30% higher wih potential better yield and screen sizes.
  2. In most producing areas we saw a healthy flowering with ample rains to follow. The heavy rainfall has, however, delayed cherry ripening by 5-6 weeks.  
  3. We expect peak harvest to begin in April and finish end of May.

“We successfully trained and achieved IMPACT-verification status for 5 new washing stations in our supply chain in 2023,” Joel says. “IMPACT verified coffees will be available this year.”

RWACOF works in a variety of ways to help farmers improve productivity and quality:

  • In 2022, RWACOF conducted soil tests for 22,000 farmers delivering to RWACOF stations and distributed lime to the approximately 1,000 farmers with acidic soil.
  • In 2023, they repeated testing for the farms with acidic soil and found that soil pH was greatly improved thanks to lime application.
  • In 2023, they distributed 1.9 million coffee seedlings to coffee farmers at no cost. This helps farmers access improved varieties.
  • That same year, they also distributed 276,000 shade tree seedlings for free to encourage farmers to increase agroforestry on their farms.

“Farmers are glad to receive additional and continuous support,” Joel says. They plan to expand this project to include a full 15% of their total supply chain.

Another way to improve yields is to make fertilizer more accessible. In 2023, RWACOF stations transformed 1051 metric tons of cherry pulp into 27 metric tons of high value compost that was distributed to farmers at no cost.

Karenge Research Center, established by RWACOF in 2023, is conducting research that helps farmers build resilience to climate change. So far, they have:

  • Organized demos plots to spread the use of good agricultural practices
  • Researched the best way to compost cherry pulp

They plan to research

  • tree rejuvenation
  • cherry composting
  • fertilization

For trees that are older and unproductive, RWACOF’s Tree Rejuvenation program helps farmers stump trees that have low yields due to age.

  • The program is funded through the Farmgate Initiative, a program that enables roasters of all sizes to contribute to meaningful projects supporting the farmers who grow their coffee.
  • In 2023, they worked with 688 farmers to stump 118,417 trees.
  • For each tree stumped, farmers receive a stipend that covers the cost of hiring labor. In total, RWACOF distributed about $5,500 to support stumping activities.
  • Farmers also accessed extension services and trainings, and borrowed tools for stumping and renovation costs.

Their goals for 2024 are to support farmers who have already stumped trees with a second round of subsidized fertilizer and to reach more farmers who will stump an additional 250,000 trees.

Farmers also gain value for themselves and their coffee through IMPACT, Sucafina’s responsible sourcing standard.

  • Currently 7,900 farmers across 5 washing stations are IMPACT verified.
  • Through IMPACT, farmers can access trainings that help them improve the environmental and social impacts of their farms.
  • RWACOF has also launched two new programs that focus on helping IMPACT verified farmers expand regenerative agriculture, reduce carbon emission and increase their incomes.

The harvest is ramping up now and it’s the perfect time to start thinking about booking your Rwandan lots. Get in touch with your trader to preorder samples, which should be available in May.