Sustainable coffee from the next generation farmers

Do you like coffee? Is it one of your morning rituals? Or your favorite pick me up afternoon drink? If it is, do you ever stop and wonder where the coffee you are consuming came from? 

Today might be a good day to start.

Coffee making is one of the largest industries in the world. The world’s biggest producers vary from latin america countries namely Brazil and Colombia – or even Vietnam or Ethiopia where coffee originated.

In RWANDA, Coffee production was introduced in the early 1900’s, when the germans missionaries planted the first trees in the Rusizi sector. During that period, the production chain would stop at Harvest and the coffee cherries would then be exported for the rest of the processing. 

In the early 2000’s the revenue from coffee was very small as the price of coffee green beans per 1 kg bag was only around 2 dollars and the consumption of coffee internationally was still limited.

In Rwanda today, the production of coffee has picked up the pace in producing quality beans and the processing chain grew from harvest point to the dry method or the wet method. Rwanda is currently ranked in the top 10 best African producers globally and the price of coffee green beans per 1 kg bag has grown from 2 dollars to around 6 dollars for the best quality.

Despite the glorious reviews and improvements, the coffee industry in Rwanda still faces many challenges.

 23% of the coffee trees are above 30 years old with the farmers being more than 51 years old. Among them, only 39% have completed their primary school education. All these elements combined, it has created a stagnant sector operating on old technology and information. 

For its survival and thriving, it needs the new generation to join in. 

This is where Joel Arusha comes in. A young entrepreneur with a passion for quality coffee, organic farming and youth empowerment.

After completing his Bachelor of Science in Agri – Business, He looked for ways to apply all the newly acquired knowledge. He got involved in farming projects with One Acre Fund organization aiming at improving the lives of farmers in Rwanda. 

On his journey, He grew an interest for coffee and the sector as a whole. It started out as a curiosity, but quickly developed into a new found love. He immersed himself in mentorship programs like Artisan Coffee Imports & Consulting, a US based importer and trader of green coffee, and workshops as he explored for an opportunity to impact this sector.

By the time he enrolled into his Master’s Degree in AgriBusiness in 2018, he knew his final thesis will be about his research on the sector: the challenges and opportunities in the coffee making, roasting and exporting industry. 

Based on his research, the situation was clear: The coffee sector in Rwanda was slowly shrinking as the production dropped.

The coffee farmers were retiring or passing on and the younger generation wasn’t getting involved to pick up from where they left off.

Joel found out that many young farmers were not interested in coffee farming because it demanded a lot of maintenance without the revenue to match it. Others were more fascinated by trendier farming opportunities. While the rest were unenthusiastic because farming is stereotypical viewed as older people’s business. 

After learning about these challenges, he decided to do something about it.


Joel founded a social enterprise named Sun Coffee, an acronym for Sustainable Next Generation coffee with the intent of roasting and exporting the cherries harvested by young farmers. 

The enterprise will go a step further by engaging and empowering those young farmers with access to land and organic fertilizers, training and especially a market for their harvest.

Since its inauguration, Sun Coffee has started to work with a cooperative named “Inshuti za Kawa” translated to Friends of Coffee. A cooperative made of young coffee farmers looking to join hands and rebuild the sector. This partnership confirmed the existing need for resources as the numbers of the cooperative members quickly grew by 79%. It also revitalised the vision of the social enterprise to empower thousands of young farmers in the next five years.

Sun Coffee aspires to impact the sector by boosting organic farming through the use of vermiculture for fertilizer, recycling everything from coffee pulp to coffee powder and maximize on sustainable innovative techniques available on the market. 

This will make sure that the Sun Coffee will be certified an organic coffee exporting enterprise.

So, the next time, you hold your morning cup of coffee and wander where it came from, make sure you are brewing Sun Coffee. As you will know that each sip is your contribution to quality coffee making but even more a contribution to a whole community lifting itself up from poverty. 

Imagine how excellent the rest of your day will feel after such reflection. You are welcome!

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