Rwandan coffee the flavour of the day at Glasgow fair trade roadshow

10 March 2019

Panel discussion about Rwandan fair trade coffee at the taste and discovery session. Photographs: Sofia Santos

The Scottish Fair Trade Forum and Challenges Worldwide team up to showcase Rwandan bean and the good work being done behind the scenes to develop the market at source

The Scottish Fair Trade Forum and Challenges Worldwide hosted a tasting and discovery session of Rwandan coffee at Matthew Algie’s Glasgow headquarters on March 7 in a bid to promote the product in Scotland.

Challenges Worldwide has been collaborating with the Scottish Fair Trade Forum, Twin Trading, Enactus UK, and Matthew Algie on the Coffee Market Building for People and Prosperity project with funding from the Scottish Government.

Dory McIntosh, the accounts management director of Challenges Worldwide, said that the aim of the project is to help cooperatives develop their business skills, improve their “coffee cupping” scores and negotiate better contracts with international buyers.

The project aims to build capacity in seven coffee cooperatives in Rwanda. Launched in December 2017, the project will last for four and a half years. The goal is to remove barriers to growth, improve the quality of coffee and increase access to international markets.

The event was the second of two roadshows this year. The first was held in Edinburgh on 6 March.

Partners to the project assist by running pilot schemes within communities in one of the cooperatives to provide business and entrepreneurial training to young people which has already resulted in six market-ready business initiatives.

“Rwandan coffee is a very small part of the international coffee market, but it is very important for Rwanda’s economy. It is a very fragile position to be in and particularly for farmers who only get income from coffee during a part of the year. We try to diversify the income sources so that people have income throughout the year,” McIntosh added.

Aimable Nshimiye, managing director of the Sholi Cooperative, and a coffee farmer from Rwanda spoke about the challenges facing farmers including limited market access, basic community and infrastructure development, climate change and sustainability issues.

He said: “The fair trade partnership has helped Rwanda to deal with these challenges and also help farmers earn a premium on exports which was not possible earlier.”

The cooperatives use the additional income to reinvest in community development programmes like water sanitation and sustainable farming practices. “It is changing our lives”, Nshimiye added.

Sholi Cooperative was formed from women’s associations, and today there are 386 members, 157 of which are women.

Martin Rhodes, director of the Scottish Fair Trade Forum said: “The role of Scottish Fair Trade Forum is to promote Rwandan coffee and let stakeholders know that these projects work.”

Amy Oroko, sustainability manager at Matthew Algie said that it is important to take part in trade fairs and reach out to a broader audience to help Rwandan coffee to find its own space in the Scottish market.

There was coffee from Ethiopia and Sumatra for the participants to compare and contrast. Arfa Iqbal, presenter at Awaz FM said: “I prefer Rwandan coffee over the others. It has a rich aroma and flavour.”

Caroline Wengel, business development manager, Scotland Food and Drink said: “It’s absolutely delicious. I loved it.”

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