Rwanda Coffee Project

Coffee Market Building for Peace and Prosperity Project 

Launched in partnership with Twin Trading and the Scottish Fair Trade Forum in 2017, the Coffee Market Building for Peace and Prosperity project is a a five-year initiative working with eight coffee co-operatives in the country’s western and southern regions. The project, which is also supported by Enactus and Matthew Algie Coffee, aims to increase the capacity of eight Rwandan coffee co-operatives by delivering business, management and leadership training; improving quality control and each co-op’s “cupping scores”; streamlining and better enabling infrastructural processes; widening access to international markets; encouraging the adoption of clean tech innovations; and working with communities, particularly women and young people, to overcome systemic barriers to economic growth.

Background to Rwandan Coffee Sector  

The Rwandan coffee sector faced near collapse in the late 1990s as a result of insufficient quantities of cherries to attract demand from off-takers and inadequate quality to attract a premium price from global buyers. Vital infrastructure was also lost during the 1994 genocide.

The Rwandan government has adopted a two-pronged approach to address these challenges:

  1. Improving technology and production – improved inputs by extension officers, replanting trees, increasing coffee washing stations, strengthening governance and management amongst cooperatives, strengthening public-private dialogue.
  2. Skills and quality- educating producers on the benefits of quality coffee and establishing quality control measures throughout the value chain. These interventions were instrumental in demonstrating the necessity of a whole value chain approach- from productivity at the farm level to improving coffee processing and creating market linkages.

The 2002 National Coffee Strategy was developed to position Rwanda as a speciality coffee producing country. This strategy called for building capacity and skills amongst coffee growers and workers at coffee washing stations, improving extension services, strengthening cooperatives and developing a Rwanda brand identity. Further revisions in 2006 and 2009 focussed on mobilising the coffee value chain to meet increasingly stringent quality and traceability requirements. The importance of shape, colour, taste, aroma qualities, as well as proper and efficient washing, drying and roasting, was emphasised.

Why this project and what our role is?

The Coffee Market Building for Peace and Prosperity project has been designed to be fully aligned with national strategies. Challenges’ experience in using a systemic market driven approach means that it is particularly well placed to address key value chain barriers to effective growth. Our other partners also bring market specific skills and expertise that will support coffee quality to enhance, cooperatives to improve, and livelihoods to enhance.

The story of coffee and Rwanda is a compelling one. It is the story of how a nascent industry helped transform livelihoods; improving incomes and supporting a healing process in rural communities as it drove national economic growth. It is a story of how out of crisis, people worked together in cooperatives and communities to overcome loss of life and loss of infrastructure. The potential of the Rwandan coffee sector has not yet been fully realized, and we seek to contribute to that realization by working to bring social, environmental and economic benefits to those in the coffee industry and rural areas.

Objectives of the Project:

The project partners intend to collaborate to addressing barriers to growth by:


  1. Heightening operational effectiveness through the provision of tailored training in business management capacity including budgeting, cost management, book-keeping, price risk management and cash flow management
  2. Removing barriers that have stalled reinvestment into new stock, and meant that cooperatives are unable to secure coffee volumes from farmers in a highly competitive environment.
  3. Increasing the ability to improve coffee quality and production processes.
  4. Improving ability to obtain, train and retain qualified staff, including young people, in a way that will strengthen organisational capacity.
  5. Enabling enterprises to take advantage of the growing market for traceable, high quality coffee from small cooperatives and POs, heighten know-how on approaching ethical lenders and securing contracts from buyers
  6. Adoption of environmentally friendly agricultural best practices leading to compliance with Fairtrade, Organic, and/or RFA and UTZ certification (dependent on PO, location and coffee quality).
  7. Addressing the lack of effective marketing and awareness of the international specialty coffee sector.
  8. Helping enterprises to identify and address key value chain bottlenecks
  9. Supporting community initiatives in business diversification, sustainability and capacity building

Watch our videos to find out more about Challenges’ Rwandan Coffee Project


Challenges are the largest independent Scottish development agency and one of 6 global sister organisations headquartered in Scotland. Challenges brings a hybrid approach utilising tools and processes built over 20 years of experience to contribute to building the capacity of the coffee cooperatives in SME management as well as youth engagement.

Challenges Capital has 20 years of experience of supporting SMEs to overcome the typical lack of post start-up access to financial support that enable companies to cope with the expansion stage

The Scottish Fair Trade Forum was established in January 2007 by a group of Fair Trade campaigners, Scotland-based non-governmental organisations and the Scottish Government, to promote the cause of Fair Trade in Scotland and, in particular, help secure Fair Trade Nation status for Scotland. The Forum has extensive networks with retailers and major purchasers in both private and public sectors. Challenges will work alongside the Forum to use these networks to promote product awareness and demand. Challenges and the Forum jointly organise promotional campaigns.

Matthew Algie is a Glasgow based Coffee Roaster. They have extensive experience of working with Rwanda coffee cooperatives and an understanding of issues that currently limit fuller engagement of cooperatives in the export market. Feedback from Matthew Algie will be used to inform changes in the procurement process (particularly around quality and operational capacity) and the training of cooperative members that will be required to achieve these changes.

Our Successes to date

It has been almost 5 years since the project launched in Rwanda. We are happy and excited to say the work with coffee cooperatives spans over 5000 direct beneficiaries and countless more families. 

  • Delivered accredited business management training realized a dramatic increase in operating capacity at most cooperatives (812 people trained, 459 women). 
  • Trained over 800 young people in entrepreneurship and gave over 35 enterprise loans. This created employment opportunities and improved agricultural and rearing practices and value chains enhancements reducing rural-urban migration. 
  • Reduced community livelihoods barriers through the widespread increase in the number of women engaged in the project (173% increase), young people engaged and clean tech projects undertaken. 
  • Launched 35 start-up businesses –19 women-led through access to finance and business support from a pool of over 800 young people trained and over 500 business plans received. 
  • Our strategic alliance with Sustainable Harvest has put the cooperatives in a stronger place in the international market, with increases in new buyers introduced (average 10 per co-op), volumes of coffee exported (18%- 528600 kilograms), bean quality (700 people trained –179. Cupping scores of all cooperatives are now in the specialty coffee category), marketing improvements etc.  


Get in touch

Whether you are a trader, roaster, development partner or keen coffee lover, we would love to hear from you and share more about the project. Please contact Stephen Hunt ( for more information.

Funded by:                              Partners: