Micro-financing Rwanda’s Coffee Farmers

As part of Zumio’s quarterly giving program of donating 1% of net profit to organisations doing good within the community, we have chosen to support Project Rwanda Coffee Bikes.

Coffee Bikes was founded in 2005 by Tom Ritchey after he visited Rwanda in 2005. Being a bicycle enthusiast himself, he soon realised that the bicycle could be a important tool in rebuilding the country.

Rwanda has nearly 500,000 small farming coffee producers who have an average of 200 coffee trees each.  Each small plantation is managed like a small garden, and is owned by a family. These farms produce the highest quality coffee bean, as the soil is a rich volcanic grade and the farmer is able to give a high standard in cultivation.

As a farmer can not afford to buy a vehicle or an animal to transport their harvest, they are forced  to carry their load and walk  to a collection point, taking them up to 12 hours to do so.   Unfortunately the coffee bean begins to deteriorate from the time it is harvested until the time it is pulped, thus reducing the profit for the farmer if it takes too long to get to market.   By providing the farmers with these specially designed coffee bikes, it dramatically reduces the transport time to 2-4hrs, thus yielding the farmer a higher profit for their harvest and supplying a superior bean.

It is a micro-finance system and designed around the pay it forward concept, where you invest $300, the farmer pays it back over 2 years and once the debt is paid the money is recycled, allowing another farmer the opportunity to finance a bike, with the cycle continuing.

The coffee bike (aka cargo bike) opportunity is not only for coffee farmers but is also extended to farmers who harvest other crops and other goods, such as potatoes, cassava, milk etc.  50 donated cargo bikes were also used to distribute mosquito nets and malaria treatment to help prevent deaths, their goal is to Eliminate Malaria Deaths by 2015.

Cargo Bikes are  helping farmers to rise above poverty, giving Rwanda the potential of creating a prosperous rural economy.