Rwanda - Musasa Mbilima
Floral notes with molassas and berries
Farm: Musasa Mbilima
Variety: 100% Red Bourbon
Processing: Fully washed and sun dried on raised beds
Altitude: 1,900-2,200 metres above sea level
Region: Coko Sector
The Musasa Dukunde Kawa cooperative has three washing stations lying high in Rwanda’s rugged northwest. Mbilima – the cooperative’s second washing station - was built by the co-op in 2005 with profits earned from their first washing station, Ruli, constructed only two years prior. Constructed at a vertiginous 2,020 metres above sea level, it is one of Rwanda’s highest washing stations.
Much of the success of Musasa Dukunde Kawa can be attributed to the transformational PEARL programme of which it was a part. The project switched the focus in the Rwandan coffee sector from an historic emphasis on quantity to one of quality, thus opening Rwanda up to the much more highly-valued 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.
Most of the small scale producers with whom Musasa Dukunde Kawa works own less than a quarter of a hectare of land, where they cultivate an average of only 250 - 300 coffee trees each as well as other subsistence food crops such as maize and beans. The cooperative gives these small farmers the chance to combine their harvests and process cherries centrally. Before the proliferation of washing stations such as Mbilima, the norm in Rwanda was for small farmers to sell semi-processed cherries on to a middleman, and the market was dominated by a single exporter. This commodity-focused system - coupled with declining world prices in the 1990s - brought severe hardship to farmers, some of whom abandoned coffee entirely.