Rwanda – Bwenda Lot 716
Rwanda is blessed with ideal coffee growing conditions that include high altitude, regular rainfall, volcanic soils with good organic structure and an abundance of the excellent Arabica varietal Bourbon. The vast majority of Rwandan coffee is produced by smallholders of which there are thought to be around half a million – with parcels of land often not much larger than just one hectare per family. Coffee is grown in most parts of the country, with particularly large concentrations along Lake Kivu and in the southern province. Rwandan smallholders organise themselves into cooperatives and share the services of centralised wet-mills – or washing stations as they are known locally. Flowering takes place between September and October and the harvest runs from March to July, with shipments starting in August through December.
The owner of Bwenda, Bernard Uwitije, is a native of southern Rwanda, in the district of Nyamagabe. Coming from a region where coffee was a dominant crop, he first entered the sector trading ordinary home processed coffee. He later learned of the added value if one processed fully. Wanting to set up a proper and sustainable business in the coffee sector, he built his first wet mill near his hometown in 2016. He used the first year to learn all the details of operating a wet mill successfully, and he built a second Washing station the following season, where he then mastered processing large volumes without compromising quality. Bwenda was his third washing station, which he built in 2018 after realizing that a group of farmers who were a bit isolated, did not have a closer washing station to process their cherries into high quality coffee. 2019 was the first season of operations at Bwenda, where just a single container worth of cherries were processed. Bernard is already developing various programs to help farmers deliver their coffee to Bwenda and he is now expanding the capacity of the wet mill too.