Saturday, December 1, 2018

Ejo Heza Women Celebrate and say "Thank you!"

Ejo Heza General Assembly at KOPAKAMA Mushubati station, Nov. 30, 2018
Nov. 30 was the one of the best days of the year for 320 coffee farmers and their families in Mushubati cell, Rutsiro district, Western Province, Rwanda. Yesterday was the date of the annual general assembly for the Ejo Heza group of women, which is a sub-group of the well-established Kopakama cooperative. Perched on top of a mountain, in the building that doubles as meeting room and coffee warehouse, (depending on the season), the members of Ejo Heza gathered. Three of their officers led the proceedings: chairperson Therese UWIMANA, vice-chair Beatrice TUYISABE, and secretary Olive NYIRAGAHIGIRWA.

Each woman received $.136/lb green coffee sold by Artisan Coffee Imports. They receive cash in their hand, calculated based on two factors:
1. the KG of cherry they delivered from their "own trees" from near their home, and
2. their share, according to the days of work they contributed to the Ejo Heza cooperative plots of land.

This 'second payment' comes on top of the $1.078/lb green they receive as the 'first payment' or base price for their cherry. In other words, roasters who buy Ejo Heza helped those farmers have 13% bonus, a total of  $1.214/lb green. For this, they are grateful, as you can see in this video of them dancing and singing!

The 'first payment' the farmer receives is the larger of the two and an important signal to the farmers of how much the washing station is willing to pay to attract the farmer's loyalty, and also a signal of what quality level the washing station requires. Washing stations that expect more selective sorting prior to delivering cherry will pay more than those stations that don't care and buy everything.
Farmers bring cherry to the washing station to sell - usually transporting by foot.
Weighing cherry - preferably within 6 hours of it being picked from the tree.

A farmer watches as her Kgs of cherry and the corresponding price are recorded.

For Ejo Heza farmers, the process of bringing cherry to the washing station is part of what solidifies their unity and strengthens the sense of belonging for each woman. Ejo Heza cherry is only collected on one, sometimes two, specified days of the week. This allows the washing station to keep the "women's coffee" separate from the rest and sell it as women's coffee. So the women know when they bring their cherry that they are contributing to this specially selected batch, and this brings a sense of honor and duty. Their coffee won 8th place in Rwanda's Cup of Excellence in 2018!
Ejo Heza members sort cherry harvested from their community field on a Tuesday - the day for women's coffee.

The second payment from a cooperative is solidifies the loyalty of the farmers, and is the way the cooperatives shares it's 'profits' after costs and revenues for the year have been finalized. The timing of the payments can be a benefit to farming households as they come 6 months after the season has ended, when cash may be low.
Proceedings at the Ejo Heza general assembly, 2018.
We don't have the lists and other details from last week's meeting yet, but in August 2018, Artisan's Ruth Ann Church visited one of the farmer field schools (FFSs) with 24 Ejo Heza members (and 6 of the cooperative's male members). Church asked and a few of the women were willing to share what they did with the premium they received the year before. There among the coffee trees, they quietly stood and shared these short stories, firmly and with pride. (Names have been changed.)

Received 53,000 Frw (~ $60) premium from Artisan. "I was able to buy three bags of cement and put pavement in the floor of one room - the dining room of my home. ...I want to improve the taste of our coffee so that we can continue to develop.”

Received premium of 12,400 Frw (~ $14). "I bought chickens and hired a person to help me weed the coffee (and the beans?). I got the money when it was a ‘bad situation’ (poverty and hunger) in our community. It helped my family very much."

Received premium of 55,000 Frw (~$62). "It helped me to buy another cow from which I can use the manure to fertilize coffee."

These amounts of cash mentioned above can be verified in the list of 320 names showing that each woman signed for their premium on October 31, 2017. (Click here to request the list.) The premium from every roaster is impacting these women’s lives. They are motivated to work with us as we explain new tasks and efforts we’d like them to try to improve quality and consistency...and avoid potato-taste defect.

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