MARKUP Rwanda Takes Off
Interview with Julia Anbalagan, ICU Coordinator MARKUP Rwanda – Coffee Value Chain Development
ICU, the Institute for University Cooperation, is MARKUP’s newest implementing partner, working on the implementation of Result 3 in Rwanda since April 2020 under the guidance of the Ministry of Finance. The coffee value chain development in Rwanda is at the heart of the intervention, aiming at coffee growers and processors along the coffee value chain. From pre-production to production, from processing to market access, ICU takes a collaborative and market-driven approach to increase the quality, quantity and profitability of Rwandan coffee, taking on board public and private stakeholders in a move to promote Rwandan coffee in the international market.
Established in 1966, ICU has vast experience in implementing development projects in areas such as agriculture, water and renewable energy in countries with limited resources and promotes their self-development. ICU will work with 20 coffee washing stations across Rwanda, reaching out to about 11,000 small-holder households.
Julia Anbalagan, ICU Coordinator, explains that ICU will be working at the farming level with KAHAWATU Foundation to organise farmers’ groups, provide agri-equipment, distribute seedlings and support certification where required. At processing level, ICU will be working with Positive Planet International to build capacities of SMEs in financial management and access to finance, including providing the skills needed to apply for loans and credits. Besides, the coffee washing station will be equipped with infrastructure inputs such as machineries, improved waste/water management systems and key certification requirements.
ICU is also envisaging activities geared towards connecting coffee farmers directly with potential buyers. As Rwanda tries to establish itself in the specialty coffee market, where obviously besides quality, a shared story and direct connections between producers and buyers will provide an added value, potential buyers will come to Rwanda to do coffee cupping and taking samples on the spot to build relationships.
Working closely with the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB), the project is currently assessing the capacity needs, challenges and solutions along the value chain, with a special focus on traceability, access to markets and information.
Julia Anbalagan explains that currently the project activities are in the stage of pre-implementation – creating a farmers’ network, carrying out needs assessments, equipping farmers and coffee washing stations with materials, preparing trainings…
“Next month, we will start setting up the coffee nurseries at the partnering Coffee Washing Stations, as rejuvenation of old and/or unproductive trees is an important point on our agenda,” says Julia.
“The biggest challenge and also the crucial key to success is to gain the trust of people,” she adds. “I believe that farmers know very well how to maintain their coffee trees, but they need a ‘gentle push’ in change of mindset in order to plan further ahead than just the next few months. If we get the trust of the people along the value chain, if they open up and trust that our approach and intentions are to their benefit, we can be successful and create a meaningful impact.”
The challenge with coffee is the extreme price volatility, and if the price is low, farmers lose interest and motivation to look after their coffee. Therefore, ICU focus a lot on higher-yielding coffee trees to increase the productivity per tree.
“A coffee tree that produces 5kg instead of 2 kg brings down your cost of production per tree, and that makes a very big difference in your unit cost of production and your profit. So it is part of our approach to make farmers understand that if they maintain their coffee trees well they produce more per tree and in the end, they get more revenue,” explains Julia.
Interview with Godfrey Gakwandi, Oxfam Programme Manager – Agriculture Value Chains MARKUP Rwanda
Oxfam is one of the new implementing partners of MARKUP in Rwanda since January 2020. Oxfam, in consortium with three other local NGOs, secured funding partly from the 11th EU EDF and from MARKUP towards unlocking the potential of Rwanda’s horticulture value chains to ensure the supply of safe and high-quality products to local and international markets. Unlocking the potential of Rwanda’s horticultural value chains (HVC Project) will contribute to ensuring the supply of safe high-quality products to local, regional and international markets is at the core of the project, with a strong focus on policies affecting the horticulture sector in Rwanda.
Oxfam and its implementing partners will work directly with farmer cooperatives, groups and smallholder farmers and other sub sector actors to increase investments to raise productivity, responsive to climate change and market demand, increase returns for smallholder horticultural farmers, increase access and capacity to respond to demand/supply to local, regional and international markets and, finally strengthen horticulture policy and regulatory framework to support smallholder farmer’s productivity, income and marketing improvements. The four interconnected result areas aim to eliminate all forms of barriers to horticulture sub sector, improve competitiveness while strengthening value addition of horticultural commodities in Rwanda and facilitating smallholders on quality assurance to rules and regulations to access international markets.
Godfrey Gakwandi, Oxfam Programme Manager in charge of the MARKUP-EU funded project in Rwanda explains: “The horticulture value chains have a huge potential in Rwanda, but the sub sector is challenged by a number of factors mainly funding that is very limited, Market linkages opportunities, processing, specific transport facilities, unaffordable packaging materials and certification to qualify for international markets.
Oxfam in Rwanda plans to reach out to 21,000 direct beneficiaries. Activities in the near future include identification of smallholders farmers, farmers trainings, project baseline study to collect data at project start, dissemination of a rapid assessment on the impact of COVID-19 on horticulture value chains and business continuity in Rwanda, undertake mapping of potential buyers for horticulture produces at local and regional markets, support activities of horticulture sector working group among others.
On the ground, farmers will be supported to set up horticultural model fields and work very closely with agronomists at decentralised structures to ensure improved farming techniques are used (including planting quality seeds and post-harvest techniques are applied to increase productivity). In addition, the project sets out to build networks of horticulture value chains’ actors in districts of implementation, including organising field visits of group members.
“As a regional programme, MARKUP can share critical information on available regional markets for horticulture produces, share experiences, lessons learned and best practices gained in other EAC countries in the horticulture value chains. MARKUP can play a central role in organizing policy dialogues at national and regional level to get policy commitments on matters affecting horticulture value chains especially horticulture financing, inclusive markets’ systems, evidence based research and compliance to regional/international certification processes,” says Godfrey Gakwandi.