Increasing farmers’ coffee yields and quality has proven to have the biggest direct impact on farmer household income. In partnership with sister company RTC, Falcon is committed to forming long-term relationships with the farming communities around RTC’s washing station sites by encouraging farmers to enrol in their coffee Agribusiness Training Program.
Timeline: 2013 – ongoing
Partner orgs: RTC
Budget: $100k per year
People: 42,000 producers
Gender: 30% female
• Farmer recruitment maintains at 62,000 farming households.
• Average yield increases of 161%.
• Number of farmers with access to financial liquidity grows to over 2000 with over $500,000 in loans distributed.
• 1.8m seedlings and 200k shade trees forecast for distribution by the end of 2023.
Over the past decade many of the coffee washing station sites in Rwanda’s growing regions have been poorly maintained and experienced periods of unstable management, resulting in times of instability for the farming communities that rely on them for processing their cherry and as an essential source of household income.
In recent years, our sister company, Rwanda Trading Company (RTC) set out to purchase and restore these sites, employing full time staff to manage and maintain them as well as re-establishing them as places of stable as well seasonal employment for local people.
All of Falcon’s specialty Rwandan coffee is purchased through RTC. This ensures transparency, direct impact in the field and the security to farmers of repeat business year after year. Premiums are also paid to farmers at the end of the season.
RTC are committed to forming long-term partnerships with the farming communities around each station site by encouraging farmers to enrol in their coffee Agribusiness Training Program. The program is overseen and run by RTC’s highly trained and experienced team of field officers who are focussed on collaborating with farmers to increase their annual yield quality and therefore their household income, providing participants access to better, more sustainable supply chains.
The program provides an initial 2-year period of education that covers aspects of best agronomic practice. It is increasing farmers’ coffee yield and quality that has proven to have the biggest direct impact on household income. This is achieved by training farmers on improving and understanding the benefits of key things like effective pruning, weeding and spacing of trees, stumping older trees for regeneration, better nutrition management through use of fertiliser material and access to better quality fertiliser, application of water conservation measures such as mulching, as well as coffee processing. Additionally, RTC have reported that frequent interaction through training boosts farmer confidence while timely payments paid encourage farmers from not diverting crops. Where needed, RTC will also distribute shade trees to farms to improve canopy and encourage farm biodiversity. Training is also provided around the importance of financial literacy, money management and saving, as well as education on understanding coffee markets.
RTC deploys a team of field officers and farmer advocates who run and oversee the program, training producers across a wide range of locations that neighbour their washing station sites. The training activities commence monthly for an initial 2-year period. Alongside good agronomic practice and financial literacy, farmers additionally receive support on good practice around general farming hygiene, gender equality, and training for specific certifications when in areas of UTZ or CAFÉ PRACTICES.
RTC employs 40 staff to run the program with the majority in the field with 3 additional employees from the head office in Kigali doing the overall coordination. In addition, each station employs site collectors who travel to meet farmers and collect their cherry in instances where access is reduced, or farmers have limited mobility.
Since the program’s inception it has so far yielded the following results:
On average, farmers with similar sized farms have seen yield increases of 161% compared to their production prior to enrolment in the training program.
In recent years the average fee revenue increase per household has been up to 209%. Due to the fluctuations in the ICE arabica market price and annual changes in farm gate pricing we are in the process of measuring revenue impact on farmers for the 2022 season.
60% of the FOB price is paid as farmgate price (first and second payments).
67% of participant farmer groups have established savings from the member loan programs which are used for things like family health insurance, sending children to school, supporting community-owned businesses and infrastructure projects, household improvements and farm expansion and maintenance.
In 2017 RTC launched its digital traceability platform and in 2020 recorded over 3.3 million lbs of green coffee as digitally traceable. In 2021, this increased to over 3.5 million lbs of digitally traceable green coffee.
Over 60,000 farmers have successfully passed through the full training program and continue to improve the yield quality of their coffee. As well as gaining confidence in how to maintain their farms, many farmers have been able to expand their coffee cultivated land, and others have invested in rejuvenation for increased farm productivity.
The next steps of the impact programs are focused on raising enough seedlings for farmers who need to continue farm expansion and those who are uprooting old trees to plan new young ones. In 2022, RTC distributed 350,000 seedlings to its farming community, and is preparing nurseries with over 1 million seedlings for distribution.
Using transactions reports which record participant farmers’ seasonal income during the harvest, RTC has partnered with a local bank to give out pre-season loans to farmers based on their expected earnings for the season. In the pilot year of 2020, over $75,000 were distributed to 500 farmers, and by 2022 the number of farmers which access to financial liquidity has grown to over 1000 with over $200,000 in loans distributed.
BLUEPRINT IN PRACTICE
The Gishyita washing station located in Rwanda’s western district of Karongi supports 995 local farming households. Their farm sizes range from less than half a hectare to around 3ha and most are within 5km of the station. When RTC took over managing the station in 2018 the station processed an amount of 187 tons of cherry of varied quality, contributed to by those 995 farmers. At the end of the season in May 2022 those same farmers contributed a total of 842 tons of cherry, 100% of which is expected to produce Specialty quality green coffee. All 995 farmers have completed or are currently participating in RTC’s training program.