Friday, March 1, 2019

Cherry Price and Farmers' Benefits

Farmer Field School – Abichizahamwa group
March 1, 2019

Today marks the day the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) will formally meet with about 100 owners of washing station in Rwanda and announce the "opening" floor price for cherry. They are setting it at an astonishingly low 190 Rwf/Kg cherry. That converts to about $.62/lb green and it is 36% less than the 300 Rwf/kg cherry ($1.07/ lb green) shown to be needed by farmers to incentivize best practices for coffee cultivation.

Several large exporters, however, are heavily invested in selling low-grade, fully-washed coffee. This is a product for which Rwanda cannot compete on a global stage against competitors from Brazil, Colombia and Ethiopia. These exporters drag down the cherry price and retard the entrance of the entire Rwandan coffee sector into a new age where Rwandan coffee is recognized as the "Panama of Africa." 

The benefits to farmers are significant when exporters agree to pay a rational share of the FOB price as the cherry price. Artisan contracts require that farmers are paid at least 300 Rwf/Kg cherry, and we have documented the following benefits over the past year:

Farmer Field School – Abichizahamwa group: 6 men, 24 women
The Ejo Heza members in the FFS were asked if they remembered anything special that happened at the last general assembly. They remembered receiving the premium. Then the agronomist asked if anyone would like to share what they did with their premium. (Names changed.)

Rec’d 53,000 Frw (~ $60) premium from Artisan. She was able to buy 3 bags of cement and put pavement in the floor of one room - the dining room in her home. She wants to improve the taste of her coffee so that “we can continue to develop.”

Rec’d premium of 12,400 Frw (~ $14). She bought chickens and hired a person to help her weed the coffee and the beans that she grows. Got the money when it was a ‘bad situation’ (poverty and hunger) in our community. Helped my family very much.

Rec’d premium of 55,000 Frw (~$62). It helped her to buy another cow from which she can use the manure to fertilize her coffee organically.

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. (A similar list is now available for the 2018 premium.) The premiums from roasters are impacting these women’s lives and motivating them when we explain new tasks and efforts we’d like them to try to improve quality and consistency, and avoid potato-taste defect.

Want to learn more about how powerful premiums are? Listen to one of two interviews with Bette UWIMANA - posted on-line in 2018:
Short one – CLICK HERE.
Long one – CLICK HERE.

To summarize, here are paraphrases of comments from Ejo Heza members Bette UWIMANA, Martha Uwiherewenimana and a comment from the male members of Kopakama:
* Bette says the women of Ejo Heza were very happy. She said that the primary uses of the extra money were school fees, purchase of small animals (goats, pigs, chickens), and the fee to be enrolled in “Mituel”, the national health insurance. 
It inspires young, ambitious farmers to invest deeper in coffee and take on leadership roles. Bette Uwimana and her husband are a good example of this. Bette is 28 years old. She and her husband have 2 children, 8 and 4 years old. They’ve benefited from coffee for over five years, but only last year (2017) decided to join Ejo Heza. I suspect seeing the women receive the premium was the “decision-maker” for Bette. She has been on the staff at Kopakama for several years, seeing how the Ejo Heza women improve their production, and then seeing the premium she finally decided to join. She and her husband have 1,650 trees. Thus the impact of the premium is both individual and community: capacity building for Bette and new, young leadership for the Ejo Heza group. 
*Speaking to Martha Uwiherewenimana, the new president of the Kopakama cooperative, she personally appreciated receiving the premium last October and knows that the Ejo Heza women were amazed to receive this extra money directly in their hands. She is confident that premium will do much to overcome any objections to testing some new practices Artisan is suggesting to improve quality, (e.g. floating cherry to separate out floaters before paying the farmers).
Appreciation - even from the men: When a group of male and female Kopakama farmers were asked (during a field school) whether conflicts or jealousy developed when the women of Ejo Heza received a premium, a male farmer answered. He said he was proud of his wife for being an Ejo Heza farmer, since that meant their household received a premium. If she had not been a member, the household wouldn’t have received any premium last year. (The cooperative normally pays a second-payment to all members in January, but in Jan. 2018 the members decided to pay down the loan they took out to build the dry mill.)