A Lack of Youth in Rwanda’s Coffee Sector
Through Rwanda INC’s youth training, and short-term experiential internships, Rwandan youth are learning about the coffee sector and potential employment opportunities.
“I was curious to know much about the coffee plant, and as a result, the internship offered me the opportunity to understand a lot about how the processing works,” says Bosco Nsabimana, a student of Rwanda INC Project’s training.“TechnoServe supported us and really encouraged me to attain more interest in coffee. My plan now is to do more research about how I can invest in it after my studies.”
The course equips youth like Bosco with an understanding of main coffee processing methods and procedures, and how they impact coffee quality, chemistry, and flavor. After attending lectures, group activities, and cuppings [coffee tastings], youth can become certified by passing a multiple-choice exam. Trained participants can then present their certification to potential employers along the coffee value chain to position for gainful employment. To date, 58 students have attended Rwanda INC training, learned better agricultural practices for coffee farms, and explored what normally takes place during the coffee processing season.
Students who complete the training and are students at agricultural teaching universities in the zone of the Rwanda INC Project, are also able to take advantage of the Rwanda INC project’s one and a half month long internship program. The intent is to attract youth in the coffee sector after exploring different opportunities in the value chain. By the end of 2023, the Rwanda INC will have reached 63 student interns, far surpassing the project goal of 30 students.
Why Rwanda’s Youth Are Learning About the Coffee Sector
“I was amazed to see local coffee farmers that understand how coffee processing works,” says Dismas Nsegiyaremye, a student trained by TechnoServe. “I also got the chance to learn about common coffee plant diseases and how to treat some of them.”
“We expect this activity will lead to an increase in extension staff hires,” says Elijiah Townsend, TechnoServe’s Regional Director, Coffee Africa. “Our experience shows that most extension officers hired by exporters are youth, and about 50% are women. In 2022, the program placed 30 university students at internships sites.”
One of these young women may be Delice Isano, a student trained by TechnoServe. “Before starting the internship, I thought that things would be a lot more difficult than I anticipated because I had no prior information about how coffee processing works,” she says. “Getting an opportunity to learn about the procedures of cultivating coffee, from the beginning stages to the end stages, triggered my interest, and now I am a lover of coffee more than ever.”
Why Youth Are Needed Now More Than Ever in Rwanda’s Coffee Industry
Rwanda’s lush hills and temperate climate make it ideal for growing specialty coffee, and the industry has been rapidly growing in recent years. More than 400,000 farming families grow most of the country’s coffee, and therefore the sector holds incredible potential for reducing poverty in Rwanda. However, the average age of a coffee farmer in Rwanda is 51 years old, and attracting younger generations to the industry has become a challenge.
To unlock the potential of Rwanda’s coffee value chain, TechnoServe is partnering with the European Union, JDE Peets, and the Government of Rwanda on the Rwanda Ikawa Nziza Cyane “Best Quality Coffee” Project. TechnoServe has also partnered with agricultural higher learning institutions to offer training provided by the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) to Rwandan youth in coffee processing, equipping them with practical knowledge and skills for employment opportunities in the sector.
The project is introducing innovative strategies and technologies to improve the capabilities of key market actors, including youth, while simultaneously addressing key challenges by:
- Helping coffee washing stations [facilities that process coffee to a higher quality standard] adopt digital tools and platforms. This will help them provide better agronomic support to their farmers, improve their business practices, and connect with lenders, buyers, and government agencies.
- Helping farmers access better agricultural supplies like high-quality seedlings and fertilizer, as well as financing to grow their production.
- Creating market research, quality standards, and policy recommendations to strengthen Rwanda’s competitiveness.
However, while the Rwanda coffee sector has improved performance in terms of quality and productivity, the age of its farmers continues to challenge its future.
Significance of Training Youth in the Coffee Sector for Sustainable Economic Development in Rwanda
Through TechnoServe’s training programs, Rwandan youth are gaining a newfound appreciation for the coffee industry, and the potential it holds for their future. With the skills and knowledge acquired through the program, young people like Bosco and Delice are well-positioned for gainful employment in the coffee value chain, providing hope for the future of Rwanda’s coffee sector. With continued efforts to address key challenges in the industry, the country can work towards achieving its goal of reducing poverty through the power of specialty coffee.
TechnoServe’s partnership with agricultural higher learning institutions is helping address the challenges faced by Rwanda’s coffee sector, particularly the lack of youth engagement in the industry. Through Rwanda INC Project’s training programs, Rwandan youth are gaining a newfound appreciation for the coffee industry and the potential it holds for their future. With the skills and knowledge acquired through the program, young people are well-positioned for gainful employment in the coffee value chain, providing hope for the future of Rwanda’s coffee sector.
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Join TechnoServe in realizing the full potential of the coffee industry in Rwanda and helping reduce poverty through sustainable economic development.