Women Playing a Vital Role in Rwanda’s Economic Development as Contenders in the Coffee Industry

By Verna Eggleston, Bloomberg Philanthropies Founder’s Projects

Africa is the world’s next great economic success story. With growth expected to reach above five percent in 2015, the continent is now home to six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world. In Rwanda, coffee production is one of the largest sectors and has fueled the country’s economic development. And with major international buyers interested in Rwanda’s specialty coffee production, Bloomberg Philanthropies has helped ensure that more women are not only a vital part of this growth – but emerge as strong participants in the international coffee market.

In 2013, Bloomberg Philanthropies partnered with Sustainable Harvest to develop the Rwanda Coffee Institute, an NGO that works with women to cultivate sustainable and profitable agriculture including coffee, mushrooms and honey production. The project provides women an entry point to international buyers and aims to help further national economic development.

IMG_2780As part of the program, women receive basic training on skills including rights, literacy and health before getting specialized training on how to grow and harvest high quality coffee and export their coffee to the international market. They also have access to training videos, to connect with other farmers and track their progress using digital tools such as iPads.

And now, more women are playing a vital role in the country’s transformation. Women farmers have harvested and exported high quality coffee from crop to cup to international distributors. Over 3,500 coffee growers will benefit from premium share program, using profits from the sale to purchase mobile phones, solar lights for their homes and new farm tools.

This month, the Rwanda Coffee Institute shipped two tankers of coffee from the Bloomberg funded farms, equaling more than 90,000 pounds of coffee from the poorest districts in Rwanda. The high volume of coffee moving across borders and into the global market signals that the women enrolled in this initiative are now considered serious contenders in the market place.

RCI-15-Clay-4766And that’s just the beginning for these business women. Click here to listen to the Rwanda Minister of Gender and Family Promotion Oda Gasinzigwa, a key advocate for women in Rwanda and a partner on our work, talk about how women are climbing further in the coffee market and what qualities make them unique entrepreneurs.