This coffee comes from the highlands of northern Rwanda called Musasa. Only being a cooperative since 2003 when Musasa built its first washing station, it is now one of Rwanda’s largest cooperatives with some 2000 members (around 80% of whom are women) in Rwanda.
Musasa produces truly exceptional lots year after year. We put this down to a very special combination of ideal growing conditions; 100% red bourbon coffee trees and meticulous attention to detail by individual farmers, for whom every single bean counts. Musasa Cooperative (also known as the Dukundekawa Cooperative) was legally incorporated in 2002 and is located in Ruli sector, Rushashi district. The cooperative now has two pulping stations to process the deliveries of red cherries. Annual production is around 100-120 tonnes of green coffee.
The cooperative gives these 2000 or so tiny producers the chance to combine their harvests and so sell their coffee directly to the international market. This has drastically increased the quality of life for Musasa’s members, often more than doubling their income. Moreover, by operating in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner, the cooperative has ensured that future generations of Rwandans will be able to obtain a decent quality of life through the coffee industry.
Musasa is part of a network of cooperatives assisted by the US-sponsored PEARL program, which does invaluable work helping Rwanda’s small-scale coffee farmers to rebuild their production in the wake of the 1994 genocide and the 1990s world coffee crash.
In the early 1990s, coffee was Rwanda’s most lucrative export. The country exported 45,000 tons of coffee in 1990, helping to support millions of Rwanda’s small-scale farmers. Events in the 1990s, however, decimated Rwanda’s coffee industry. Most importantly, the 1994 genocide claimed the lives of nearly a million Rwandans, destroying Rwanda’s economy and erasing much of the specialised knowledge needed to export coffee profitably. Simultaneously, world coffee prices plummeted in the 1990s due to increased worldwide production and consolidation of purchasing by multinational corporations. The price of low-grade coffee has decreased by over 50% since 1990, bringing hardship to millions of coffee farmers in Rwanda and throughout the world. For Rwandans, however, the added burden of a genocide has made production of coffee especially difficult. The world price of low-grade coffee is now below the cost of production for millions of Rwandan farmers, and as a result, millions of coffee trees in Rwanda are not harvested. Rwanda currently produces less than half the amount of coffee it produced in 1990.
Rwanda’s climate, altitude, and high-quality bourbon-variety coffee trees give it the ability to produce high quality coffee for the specialty coffee market. PEARL’s coffee program is designed to rebuild Rwanda’s agricultural institutions, production capability, and human capital so that the country’s small farmers can sell their coffee directly to buyers in the specialty market and receive high prices for their product.
PEARL pursues this goal primarily by creating and supporting coffee cooperatives. Cooperatives allow Rwanda’s small growers combine their harvests into container-sized shipments, instead of tiny parcels produced by individual farms. This in turn enables them to sell coffee directly to foreign markets instead of to domestic markets or exporters. More importantly, if a cooperative can consistently produce container-sized quantities of high-quality coffee, its members can sell their beans in the specialty coffee market and receive appropriately high prices for their product.
By helping Rwandans form successful and profitable cooperatives, and by rebuilding Rwanda’s research capacity, PEARL’s coffee program will continue to increase the quality and quantity of coffee being exported from Rwanda for years to come. In so doing, PEARL will make a lasting impact on thousands of Rwandan small farmers.
In the cup expect lots of complex acidity, black fruit, think cherry and grape, deliciously lively. Lovely lovely brewed coffee, challenging but rewarding espresso.
Farm: Musasa Cooperative
Varietal: Red Bourbon
Processing: Fully Washed and dried on African beds
Owner: Musasa Cooperative
Region: Ruli sector, Rushashi District