Rwanda is blessed with ideal coffee growing conditions that include high altitude, regular rainfall, volcanic soils with good organic structure and an abundance of 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 Ruvumbu washing station is situated in the southwest corner of the country on the mountainous shores of Lake Kivu. Like many other washing stations in Rwanda, Ruvumbu started life as a cooperatively run endeavour, which has since seen investment by private owners and management. Justin Musabyimana - a local farm owner and manager of the Mahembe washing station, also in Nyamasheke - took over in 2014. Musabyimana’s involvment marks a period of greater stability, after several difficult years under previous cooperative management.
Under Musabyimana's ownership, Ruvumbu has gone from strength to strength. Volumes are up from 100 MT to 250 MT of coffee cherries processed in recent seasons. In addition to increased volume, the station is producing some of the best quality coffee in Rwanda: Ruvumbu took 3rd place overall in the 2014 Rwanda Cup of Excellence Competition, and was given a Presidential Award at the event for receiving a cupping score above 90 points.
Ruvumbu uses a McKinnon single-disc pulper for processing, and all parchment coffee is separated and graded in gravity channels, then dried on raised beds before being sent to Kigali for dry milling. Rwanda Trading Company is responsible for milling and exporting 100% of Ruvumbu’s parchment and green coffee.
In addition, Ruvumbu is still working closely with coffee farmers in neighbouring areas, who are grouped into the larger ABARYOSHYAKAWA Cooperative, which benefits from around 70% female membership.