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This March, in conjunction with International Women’s Day, we are launching a limited edition “Coffee of the Month” which celebrates a women’s cooperative in Rwanda who are transforming an industry traditionally dominated by men.
In 2013 Rwandan coffee cooperative Kopakama purchased a plot of land which is now owned and farmed collectively by 244 women. Named Ejo Heza ‘’A Beautiful Tomorrow’’ the all-women farmers directly benefit from coffee farming, participate in training, work in solidarity with the support of other women and share their knowledge and childcare responsibilities. Profits from coffee sales have been used for building their washing stations and providing access to water and electricity for the community.
The name Ejo Heza speaks of the hope, courage and determination of Rwandan women who have been rebuilding their country since the horrific genocide in 1994. It brings women together to work for two days every week and in doing so, to talk with and to support each other, and to help each other to address the personal challenges they would struggle to overcome if they always worked alone.
‘My father was in prison for committing genocide’, explains Christine Nyiranshimyimana. ‘It was shameful for me to be spoken of within the community as the child of a killer. Today, there is no more shame’.
The other main aim of Ejo Heza is to empower women, and the group have already benefitted both from gender equity training and also by gaining more control over their family finances. By selling their own coffee, these women earn more cash themselves and they use their earnings very effectively for the benefit of their families. They can also access loans through their membership of Ejo Heza, which provides them extra opportunities to increase their coffee production, or else to set themselves up with alternative sources of revenue, such as buying cows, which produce a regular supply of milk and manure.
This is all on top of the higher prices they already receive by selling their fair trade organic coffee through their wider co-operative, Kopakama.
Trade Aid’s Food Manager, Justin Purser visited Kopokama in December 2018 and recounts the wonderful story of the country’s recovery from the horrors of the 1994 genocide.
“If you know anything about Rwanda, you will appreciate that little more than twenty years ago the country was blown apart by a 100-day period of genocide, in which a million Rwandans lost their lives, and the chaotic years that followed it.
This morning I visited the remarkable Kigali Genocide Memorial, built on a site that offers a final resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the genocide in the Kigali region. In its written narrative, the exhibition details in no uncertain terms how badly the people of Rwanda were let down by the international community in the run-up to the violence. It also, in one of the later panels, simply states that following the genocide ‘Rwanda was dead’.
In the past twenty years or so, Rwanda has succeeded – with a significant amount of international help – in achieving an almost unbelievable level of recovery with an intense focus having been placed on rehabilitating both its economy and its people. Nowhere is this more evident than in the revival of the country’s coffee industry, which is playing its part in rebuilding both the local economy and also in rebuilding society.
Now, and even more so after having visited the memorial this morning, I’m incredibly proud that through the connection of coffee, Trade Aid has created an opportunity for New Zealanders to help the people of Rwanda to continue their long and painful process of recovery from the events of twenty years ago.”
To read more about Justin’s inspiring visit with the women of Ejo Heza, visit: https://www.tradeaid.org.nz/news/creating-a-beautiful-tomorrow-today/
Experience for yourself the taste of hope and courage today. With its up-front sweetness and raspberry, lime and vanilla flavours, the taste of Kopakama coffee is just as great as the story behind the beans. The coffee is available in plunger/filter grind or whole beans for a limited time at Trade Aid stores nationwide and online.