Pictured: Julian Kobusinge, furthest left, and Divine Mutuyimana, second left, with the other SheTrades ambassadors.
The IOE&IT Daily Update completes its final profile of the SheTrades entrepreneurs who appeared at the Institute of Export & International Trade’s (IOE&IT) stand at the WTO Public Forum in September.
The stand showcased four ambassadors from the International Trade Centre’s (ITC) SheTrades initiative.
SheTrades provides female entrepreneurs with access to knowledge, resources, and networks as a way to address this gender imbalance.
In today’s article, we profile a female-led Rwandan coffee company that values sustainability and exports their products globally.
Tropic Coffee Ltd, Rwandan sustainable coffee producer
“We’re a company founded by Divine Mutuyimana, a woman, in 2015,” explains Julian Kobusinge, Tropic Coffee’s monitoring and evaluation officer.
Founder Mutuyimana and Kobusinge attended the WTO Public Forum together to promote Tropic Coffee and further the cause of female empowerment in Rwanda.
Female coffee farmers
After the Rwandan genocide, many women were left widowed and having to look after their children on their own.
With the country’s economy relying heavily on agriculture, farming was a way for these women to support themselves and their families.
“We work with 3,000 farmers, one quarter of which are women,” says Kobusinge.
Tropic has set up sites in north and central Rwanda.
“We own three coffee washing stations in Rwanda, and produce different forms of coffee there,” says Kobusinge.
“We make different kinds of coffee that need different processing methods.”
Each location has an attached field school to train their farmers on best practice, and also plants other crops both for food uses and to ensure crop diversity.
Sustainability is part of the company’s core values. Kobusinge explains that participation in the SheTrades iniative has allowed Tropic to access more training opportunities.
“SheTrades has given us the opportunity to get a coffee practice certificate and recognition from the UTZ.”
UTZ is a programme for certifying sustainable farming – requiring proof of best practice and independent monitoring – and is used by many of the world’s leading brands.
Tropic Coffee exports its products to multiple markets in Asia and Oceania, but this has not been without its challenges.
“Our biggest challenge is climate change,” Kobusinge explains.
Studies suggest that, by 2050, almost half of land used for producing high-quality coffee beans will be unproductive and coffee farming generally will become much harder.
“A lot of coffee farmers are not educated properly on climate change and face problems here. We need training to help them adapt to grow coffee.”
Kobusinge ends on a positive note, talking about the opportunities for further growth.
“I’ve learnt a lot. I discovered new markets, met new buyers and I can’t wait for the remaining days ahead!”