In the heart of Rwanda’s hilly landscape, in the Gakenke district of the Northern Province, a remarkable transformation is underway, driven by the dedication of farmers and a strategic shift to reshape the nation’s agricultural export sector. At its core is a commitment to excellence through organic certification and rigorous standards.
The Dukunde Ikawa Cooperative, located in the heart of Gakenke district, is dedicated to enhancing the value addition of agricultural export crops.
Ernest Nshimiyimana, an accountant with the Dukunde Ikawa Cooperative, recently told Xinhua in an interview that the cooperative’s dedication to organic farming is evident in the production of approximately 40 percent of its coffee as organic.
He said that the agricultural products are making their mark in European markets, including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (UK), while also establishing a foothold in the competitive U.S. market.
“We export at least four to five containers to the United States. One container holds 19.2 metric tons of green coffee.
We also have roasted coffee in envelopes that can be found in various markets in the country, including Simba Supermarket, Cameria Restaurant, and RwandAir.
You may be able to find organic and non-organic coffee, as they are packaged differently,” said Nshimiyimana.
“Our coffee business is expanding, as we started with a few farmers who were unaware of the benefits of growing coffee. However, the number of farmers has now increased from 516 to 720.”
Nshimiyimana underscored the environmental benefits of organic agriculture, emphasizing the cooperative’s role as a guardian of the land.
Their commitment extends beyond profit, aiming to ensure the well-being of consumers through the consumption of organic produce and the preservation of the environment for future generations.
In the pursuit of global partnerships, Nshimiyimana revealed the cooperative’s collaboration with Alibaba and a budding connection with Chinese businesses.
The engagement has resulted in significant coffee sales in China. The bridge between Rwandan coffee and the Chinese market is steadily strengthening, promising further opportunities for growth, according to him.
Steven Kwizera, farm manager at Sunripe Farm Ltd.,
located in the Bugesera district in the Eastern Province, told Xinhua that organic certifications will enable agricultural products to access good markets.
“Certification guidelines will help farmers meet the quality standards required on the market and ensure that the produce is safe for human consumption,” he added.
Specializing in hot pepper (Habanero) cultivated in greenhouses, the farm has not only received positive feedback but has expanded its market presence from a modest beginning to an impressive 30 hectares within six years. Sunripe Farm is now exporting a diverse range of crops like Habanero chili, green chili, French beans, and okra to the UK and all European Union markets. The farm’s commitment to high standards has fueled its growth, with the possibility of entering the Chinese market on the horizon, according to him.
Lise Chantal Dusabe, the chief executive officer of the Rwanda Organic Agriculture Movement (ROAM), told Xinhua that the collaboration between ROAM and the Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) is pivotal in shaping and promoting stringent standards and certifications.
“As part of ROAM’s work to train agriculture value chain actors to comply with organic standards, standard certification is a guarantee for consumers that the products they buy comply with certain requirements,” said Dusabe. “It is a guarantee for both consumers and farmers to access local and international markets. It is, therefore, an opportunity to access markets and guarantee consumers that the products comply with market requirements.”
With around 16 certified cooperatives and companies, the organic movement of Rwanda extends beyond coffee and tea to include diverse products like certified organic dried pineapples and avocados, actively supported by ROAM. Standard certification, as advocated by ROAM and RSB, is not a mere formality.
It serves as a guarantee, assuring consumers that the product meets stringent requirements, ensuring both safety and quality, according to her.
The certification opens doors for farmers, providing them access to markets, both local and international, and contributing to the global reputation of Rwandan agricultural produce.
In an interview with Xinhua, Raymond Murenzi, the director-general of the RSB, emphasized the role of the RSB in promoting standards and establishing schemes like the organic certification scheme.
“We have embarked on an awareness campaign to enhance public understanding, fostering trust between farmers and consumers. The organic certification scheme is not just a label; it’s a bridge connecting Rwandan farmers with a global audience, built on principles of fairness, sustainability, and quality,” he said.
Murenzi added that the government is actively encouraging farmers to embrace organic practices, ensuring not only access to markets but also fair compensation for their efforts.