Rwanda, along with many other African nations, has a long way to go for its coffee exports to catch up to nations like Brazil. This is because the majority of Rwandan farmers is still farming on a subsistence level and producing low-grade coffee. However, the future for one community of Rwandan coffee growers looks bright thanks to the involvement of the Norman E. Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University and USAID. They’re sponsoring an effort that’s helping to educate local farmers in the Rwandan province of Kibungo.
The project is called SPREAD, or Sustaining Partnerships to enhance Rural Enterprise and Agribusiness Development. Linda Cleboski, the program development coordinator for the Norman E. Borlaug Institute, said that the five-year plan focuses on improving the coffee yields for local farmers. It will later expand to other crops like chili peppers, cassava flowers, spices and tea crops.
Linda Cleboski says that the plan is for farmers to reach a high level of self-sustenance while becoming a major source of agricultural exports from Rwanda.
“Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa and so there was a need significant need for increased food production and income,” she said.
Among those benefiting from the project are genocide survivors and widows who she calls “brave, resilient, [and] inspirational.”
The institute links international coffee experts from the US private sector with local cooperatives that operate coffee businesses. The specialists teach the farmers how to produce good quality coffee that is consumed on the global market.
As the coffee crops being to meet international standards for quality, the coffee yields and the prices they garner on the market have increased. .
Aside from just improving agriculture, the project also includes a health component that will address issues such as HIV, maternity health, and other forms of education to empower the local community