The following is a link to a New York Times article about how coffee is making a difference in Rwanda, a country recently ravaged by civil war and genocide.
Rwanda, a tiny East African country recently rent by a famously savage civil war, has found hope in that most colonial of crops: coffee. By riding booming demand in the developed world for specialty brews — and, to a certain extent, by turning its own challenges to its advantage — Rwanda has made premium coffee-growing a national priority. That has not only brought in a trickle of money to a country with little else to trade, but provided a stage on which one-time blood enemies can reconcile their terrible history.
Facing declining coffee prices, Rwandans decided to improve the quality of their coffee, and in doing so, they’ve been able to double their incomes. The US Agency for International Development (A.I.D.) has been behind some of these changes:
Since 2001, A.I.D. has invested $10 million in helping Rwandans improve the quality of their coffee, mainly by providing farmers’ cooperatives and small entrepreneurs with financing for washing stations and training in their use. The Rwanda government’s goal is to make all coffee produced in the country specialty coffee by 2008.
This article is an excellent case study and here are what I consider the most important learning points:
– Move from commodity to specialty beans. Smaller market but beans can be sold for premium
– Support infrastructure for helping farmers sell on speciality market by providing washing stations
– Create farming cooperatives to cut out the middle man so farmers can collect most of the profits
Read the entire article about numerous other benefits resulting from the evolution of the co-op system.