Last month we completed a short internship here in London, with Zacharie from Café de Maraba, Rwanda.

Our relationship with the Rwanda farmers at Maraba & Gashonga, is through Direct Trade in its truest sense and we’re assisted by Rwashoscco (Rwanda Small Holder Specialty Coffee Company) which exports and markets the superb specialty Rwanda coffee grown by the 11 Co-operatives on behalf of the farmers.

Rwashoscco is owned by the Co-operatives and is a for-profit business. It also operates “Cafe de Maraba”, a small coffee roasting company, now in Kigali but previously in Butare, nearby Maraba.

Cafe de Maraba sells to the local restaurants, hotels and grocery in Rwanda. It is the best known coffee in Rwanda, and when I’m in Rwanda and ask a waiter in a restaurant “what coffee am I drinking?” they always tell me “Café de Maraba”. But ask to see the package, and it can be another story. Sometimes its one of the competitors, and you can tell because they don’t taste as good.  So Zacharie, the Manager of Café de Maraba, was with us in London to pick up some ideas on how he can grow and develop Café de Maraba and market it successfully.

The coffee which Café de Maraba roasts and sells creates additional revenue stream for the co-operatives.  So, the strategy is for the farmers to participate in a business which provides value added “roasted coffee” as well as earn income from their crops through selling to the co-operative.

The team at Café de Maraba is very small; they are very good and committed to what they do, but the barriers which they face – high taxes, low internal coffee consumption, constant power failures and delivery issues make managing a business incredibly difficult.  Despite the challenges, they are selling roasted coffee in a market which is leading the continent in business growth. With the interest in tourism, there are many new hotels, and restaurants are busy and new openings too.

Zacharie had the opportunity to observe how we navigate Union on a daily basis. We visited clients (thank you to Giraffe, Canteen, Taylor Street Baristas and Royal Festival Hall).  He has to wear many hats; managing the Roasting Facility, Sales & Marketing, Administration, Distribution. We know exactly how that feels when you only have a couple or three people in the team so hopefully he picked up a few tips.  I think the more people Rwashoscco is able to have with the passion and enthusiasm that Zacharie expressed, the greater the chances are for them to be successful as a company and of course that will bring success for the individuals too.
So if you are fortunate enough to visit Rwanda, perhaps drinking coffee in a restaurant, check that it’s Café de Maraba, & pick up a pack at Kigali Airport before you leave.