Buf Kivubelt, Rwanda
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Roast Level: Medium
Process: Fully washed & sun dried on raised beds
Varietal: 100% Red Bourbon
Roaster's Notes: After the resounding success of our Buf Umurage from earlier in the year, it was a delight to get some coffee back in from Epiphanie & Sam at Buf Coffee. This one is a bit more chocolate-y than the last, but still with a brilliantly berry like aroma and and orange sweetness.
Producer: Furaha Umwizeye Teuscher
Region: Nyamasheke District, Lake Kivu
Altitude: 1800 - 2000 metres
This coffee was processed at Murundo Central Washing Station (CSS). The washing station is privately owned by Furaha Umwizeye, a Rwandan national who completed a Master’s degree in economics from the University of Fribourg in Switzerland and was motivated to return to Rwanda to better contribute to her home country. She is helped in this goal by Teuscher Invest LTD, a business initiative which started in 2009. The initiative helps to involve Rwandans from within the country and abroad to develop business ventures in Western Rwanda, particularly those that aim for the production and export of high quality coffee.
Today, Umwizeye has three farms and over 90,000 coffee trees next to the picturesque Lake Kivu. She has branded her coffees “Kivubelt” and aims to produce the highest quality coffee using best sustainable agricultural practices and processing. In addition to managing their own farms, she and her team work closely with smallholders in the region as part of their mission to leverage their coffee expertise for positive social impact. This coffee, also called ‘Cyiya’ is one of these and serves as an example of the qualities a coffee produced by small holders can achieve. The village of Cyiya is high up in the mountains and often only accessible by foot. The farmers walk hours from the village of Cyiya to sell their coffee cherries at the washing station in Murundo, where they deploy strict quality controls and ensure that this coffee keeps its high potential for quality. In exchange, farmers receive exceptional prices. Most have very small plots of land and on average only around 200-300 coffee trees. They grow food crops and have some small livestock for subsistence, but for the most part coffee is their only source of income. The additional quality bonus can make all the difference.
Sam Muhirwa of Buf Coffee has become a champion of this excellent endeavour and has worked to place Kivubelt’s coffees on international markets. Buf Coffee was one of the early mobilisers of specialty coffee in the country, and it is indicative of the strong ethos of the country’s coffee sector that potential competitors such as Kivubelt and Buf actually collaborate to make a better coffee future in this way.
Buf Coffee was founded in 2003 by Epiphanie Mukashyaka, a dynamic businesswoman and a source of inspiration to countless other female entrepreneurs in Rwanda’s coffee sector and beyond. Buf is now managed by Epiphanie and her son, Samuel Muhirwa, who is taking an increasingly active role in running and expanding the business. The title ‘Buf’ derives from ‘Bufundu’, the former name of the region in which its washing stations are located. Epiphanie, who was born in 1959, was widowed during the 1994 genocide - which claimed over 800,000 lives in just 3 months - but chose not to leave her family’s small coffee farm. Instead she set about rebuilding and developing her business and with it the local community. She started Buf Café in 2003, when she established Remera washing station with a loan from the Rwandan Development Bank and the assistance of the USAID-financed PEARL project. This transformational programme was aimed at switching the focus in the Rwandan coffee sector from an historic emphasis on quantity to one of quality - and so opening up Rwanda to the far higher-earning specialty coffee market. The programme and its successor, SPREAD, have been invaluable in helping Rwanda’s small-scale coffee farmers to rebuild their production in the wake of the devastating 1994 genocide and the 1990s world coffee crash.
Buf Coffee now owns four coffee washing stations – Remera, Nyarusiza, Umurage and Ubumwe. The company, which was serving less than 500 farmers in 2003, is now procuring coffee cherries from more than 7,000 smallholder farmers in the Southern province of Rwanda, among them 1,069 are registered members.
Recently, Buf integrated farmers that they work with into different groups each composed of 30 to 60 farmers. Through these groups, farmers are trained in good agricultural practices to improve their coffee quality and quantity while conserving the environment. The majority of the small farmers in the area have an average of only 300 coffee trees (less than a quarter of a hectare) and use some of their land to cultivate other crops such as maize and beans to feed themselves and their families. Most of their income from the sale of coffee is used to take their children to school, pay for medical care and for investment in livestock such as a cow for milk, both for use in the home and for sale locally. Access to training and information that can help to increased yields through the new program has the potential to be transformational.