Among other key commodities, coffee has played a defining role in Rwanda’s recent high economic growth. Despite its growing reputation for quality and taste, and their Government’s aim to position Rwanda as a speciality coffee producing country, Rwanda and its coffee co-operatives still face key challenges in bringing their coffee to international markets, where consistent quality and ethical standards are industry standard. Namely, poor infrastructure and mismanagement undermine its ability to achieve its true potential. 

In 2017, Challenges Worldwide, in partnership with the Scottish Fair Trade Forum, embarked on a Scottish Government-funded, 5-year programme with a simple overarching objective: “The improved quantity and quality of coffee produced in Western and Southern Rwanda leading to an increase in the $2.4m value of exports to international markets”. 

This ambitious object is underpinned by three main outcomes: 

  1. Increase operating capacity of eight participating co-operatives 
  2. Strengthened coffee value chain leading to an increase in access to international markets and total export levels
  3. Community resilience strengthened and livelihood barriers reduced through initiatives identified and implemented by community members 

Our role 

Helping to achieve key communications objectives, we have relished the opportunity to collaborate with Challenges Worldwide to promote the coffee programme and raise awareness for Fairtrade Rwandan coffee throughout Scotland. 

In 2018, The Forum worked closely with Challenges and TWIN to produce an insightful short film, shedding light on the challenges faced in bringing Rwandan coffee to market in the global north and the work undertaken to strengthen cooperative capacity and develop high-quality Fairtrade coffee. Through strong social media presence – reaching at least 4,500 individuals online and numerous showings at key events, the film has been shown to impressed audiences far and wide including, perhaps most notably, to the Cross Party Group on Fair Trade at the Scottish Parliament. 

Fairtrade Fortnight 2019 further represented a significant opportunity to demonstrate the programme’s impact and ultimately grow the awareness of and demand for Fair Trade Rwandan coffee in Scotland.  For this year’s Producer Tour, we were delighted to host Aimable Nyshimiye – coffee producer and Managing Director of the Sholi Cooperative – as a special guest. With an exciting programme designed by The Forum, Aimable spent two days in London and nine days in Scotland communicating the difficulties faced in producing and trading Rwandan coffee and the benefits of Fairtrade certification. Significant tour events included a parliamentary reception in Westminster; a Cross Party Group meeting at the Scottish Parliament; coffee roadshows (one of which was introduced by Scottish Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development, Ben Macpherson); and producer talks at the Edinburgh Fairtrade Festival and St Andrews University.  

Aimable was, on behalf of all cooperatives involved in the project, able to engage with and influence a diverse range of prominent stakeholders throughout Scotland including MPs, MSPs, local councillors, senior procurement officials in public sector bodies and further and high educational institutions, Fair Trade business owners and avid Fair Trade consumers and campaigners. These meaningful connections will continue to provide opportunities for the partnership to raise awareness and grow the market for Rwandan Coffee within Scotland. 

Building on this momentum, we continued our awareness-raising role at several key events including the Edinburgh Coffee Festival, the Edinburgh Fair Trade Christmas Market and very our co-hosted ‘Meet Your Fair Trade Suppliers’ event in Edinburgh Council’s Headquarters.  

Throughout the project, Challenges and SFTF have also marketed the project, and Rwandan coffee in general, to local organisations and independent coffee shops across Scotland.  

In 2020, we partnered again with Media Co-op to produce a follow-up promotional film (see below). Together with a Mid-project report, we continued to demonstrate the success of the programme throughout our vast network of 700 Fair Trade stakeholders throughout Scotland, both online and in-person: from campaigners and consumers to public, private and third sector organisations, politicians and educational institutions. 

Mid-way through the Project 

Mid-way through this incredible journey, “the successes have surpassed expectations” (Jenny Gilruth, Minister for Europe and International Development). Read the full report here and watch our second film below.