Last year while researching Rwandan coffee, we came across Michigan State University’s African Great Lakes Project, which was established in 2000 and is still contributing to Rwandan agriculture. One of the researchers involved with this work is Ruth Ann Church of Artisan Coffee Importers.
Upon reading about Ruth’s work in Rwanda, an opportune connection was presented. A principle of Blueprint’s green buying vision is establishing the cost of production for producers. The variables and challenges to this principle are different for every country, and particularly difficult in Rwanda. The opportunity was to begin working with a knowledgeable researcher whose focus was on this exact issue. Ruth’s focus on cost of production and efficiency at the farm level motivated us to connect and learn more. Her work is focused on the economic sustainability of coffee farming when Lean management principles are applied. Lean at Origin is a program developed by Ruth specifically for coffee farming and processing that aims to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. Considering market influences are pushing farmers away from growing coffee while global demand is rising makes this an important focus – also a reason why we make it a focus with origin partnerships.
Kopakama cooperative began implementing Lean at Origin in 2016. The process takes 3 years to completely implement, but the results are beginning to show. Ejo Heza, a woman’s producer group that is part of the Kopakama cooperative, is one of the participants. “Ejo Heza” means “a better tomorrow” and Blueprint wants to support the efforts made by Artisan Coffee Importers and the women farmers responsible for growing and harvesting this coffee.
We are now into our second harvest from Ejo Heza. From this harvest, we have selected two lots. Lot 78 is the first and is bursting with sweet, fruit flavors. Additional, we have initiated a mutually beneficial partnership with the Ejo Heza growers group, the Kopakama co-op which they belong to, and Artisan Coffee Imports. The partnership spans four years. Just a few months ago, Ruth Ann Church of Artisan Coffee Imports kicked off the partnership by delivering a microscope so that Kopakama and Ejo Heza could begin soil assessments. Next year, a representative from Kopakama will participate in the “Building Soil Health” online training by Dr. Elaine Ingham and begin to apply soil restoration processes to demonstration plots at Kopacama and Ejo Heza. Years 3 and 4 will be centered around soil maintenance and application of Actively Aerated Compost Tea to the restored soil on the demonstration plots.
Team taste notes: apricot, peach, lemon, creamy, tropical, lemon, spice
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