Members today: 2200 and their 8000 families members
Region: Rubavu & Rutsiro
Geographical overview: on volcanic soils at altitude between 1500m and 1900m.
Species and Variety: Arabica Bourbon Mayaguez
COOPAC (Cooperative pour la Promotion des Activities Café) was founded in April 2001 with 110 members. Working collectively, COOPAC focused on regenerating the coffee sector in the Gisenyi region of Lake Kivu.
“Our initial objective was to take advantage of the excellent natural resources in our region and focus on producing the highest quality coffee for the gourmet market,” says Emmanuel. “But our ultimate goal is to see higher returns for our collective efforts and to increase the well being of our members – the coffee producers of this region.”
COOPAC was quick to see returns on its investments. Prices began climbing in recognition of the quality improvements and likewise, the organization began to grow. In 2002 COOPAC included more than 300 members. In 2003, COOPAC constructed the Nyamwenda washing station and achieved FLO certification. In 2004 membership had risen to 1,500 members. Last year that number reached 2,198 members from the six areas of Ack, Ubuzima, Tuzamurane, Kopabm, Abakundakurima and Abanyamurava, and exported 12 containers of Fair Trade certified coffee.
Lake Kivu, a region with rich volcanic soils, frequent rainfall and good altitude, is also earning the reputation for supplying the finest quality Rwanda has to offer. During the East African Fine Coffee Association annual conference and regional quality competition, COOPAC placed first for the continent.
But not resting on its awards, COOPAC continues to push to transform coffee culture and improve cultivation practices. “For our high production and for our quality recognition, the Rwandan government offers awards to our farmers in the form of chemical fertilizer prizes,” Emmanuel explains. “But this is not the kind of support we want. We have been attempting to lobby our government to offer a cow to every family instead. That would be a sustainable resource for us – with one cow per family, we could guarantee a continual supply of organic fertilizer over the years to come.”
COOPAC was the first cooperative in the Giseny and Rutsiro regions of Lake Kivu to build a collective washing station. That was the Nyamwenda station constructed in 2003 (partial grant, partial credit). Today, some 50 washing stations dot the northern lake landscape.
“Between the cooperative and the private washing stations, there is now an intense local competition for the Kivu coffee cherries,” COOPAC general manager Emmanuel Rwakagera explains.
And the proof is in the pricing. Where local middlemen might offer 80 to 100 Rwandan Francs per kilo of cherry in other regions of the country, Kivu cherries are fetching 100 to 130 Francs at the peak of the season.
With their Fair Trade Premium, COOPAC has been able to:
- Assist in school construction
- Assist in the construction of health-care clinics
- Assist in the construction of roads and bridges
- Assist in the well-being of women and the young
To know more about that cooperative, here is a link to their internet site.
To see more pictures, click here
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