Over 1,000 members of Kopakaki-Dutegure Cooperative in Karongi District are counting a loss of about Rwf100 million after the recent floods destroyed coffee plantations as well as harvest.
The farmers shared their current challenges with Business Times during a recent agricultural exhibition in Kigali.
“The flooding destroyed part of our factory and drying facilities and part of the coffee plantation was also affected by erosion. It also destroyed the bridge connecting the factory to the coffee plantations. We are counting about Rwf100 million loss,” recounted the adviser to the cooperative, Jean Paul Kibanza.
He said that some coffee grains that survived have lost quality as the the floods soaked the drying facilities.
“Last year we harvested 800 kilograms of cherry but we are projecting below 500 kilograms this year after the flooding effects,” he said.
The cooperative that was established in 2007 has built a Rwf200 million coffee washing station which the members say is not receiving enough produce.
The coffee station facilities will have to be relocated to safe place, members say.
In order to increase productivity and recover from the losses, Kibanza said, the farmers have turned to traditional approaches to fight against the pests called Antestia bugs.
“We use perforate bottles containing banana beer to trap the pests that attack coffee plantations. We are doing our best so that we recover from climate related effects,” he said.
Despite the loss, Kibanza said that through the previous savings, the cooperative is expecting to buy land worth about Rwf7 million to expand coffee growing.
“Despite the challenges, the cooperative has been growing since we started with 70 members in 2007 with each member paying Rwf10, 000 as membership fees. The number of members has since grown to 1,000 members with new members paying Rwf100, 000 membership fees,” he said.
Deogratius Bagaragaza, another farmer from KOTEMUKAMA cooperative with 232 farmers from Nyamasheke District also told Business Times that with 49 hectares, the cooperative gets an average of 1.2 tonnes of harvest per year
However, he said the cooperative’s harvest has since decreased to 500 kilograms of cherry this year due to disasters including that prolonged drought last year.
To recover from the losses, Bagaragaza said that they are piloting a new model of coffee grading practices under the support of National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) in conjunction with German experts.
Despite the challenges that some coffee farmers are facing, Dr Celestin M. Gatarayiha, the Coffee Division Manager at NAEB said that coffee exports continue to increase considering that the quantity of coffee exports in 2016 were 22,000 tonnes which increased to 23,000 tonnes in 2017 and is expected to reach 24,500 tonnes this year.
He said that by 2024, the plan is to have planted 34,000 new coffee trees to replace the old trees adding that with proper application of fertilizers as well as integrated pest management will double productivity
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