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Coffee. &. Fairtrade. Rwanda. We all enjoy a coffee when we’re out shopping. But when you buy a cappuccino in the high street, how much of the price you pay do you think goes to the person who produced the coffee beans?. The actual figure is…. 0.05%.

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We all enjoy a coffee when we’re out shopping.

But when you buy a cappuccino in the high street, how much of the price you pay do you think goes to the person who produced the coffee beans?


The actual figure is…


This is the percentage that a Rwandan coffee producer gets from the average price charged for a cup of coffee in a Western country.



Do you think it’s fair?

  • why is this figure so low?

This presentation looks at:

  • what effect does it have on the producers?
  • what can we do about it? and
  • where does coffee come from?

It has active volcanoes along its borders with Uganda and Congo.

Because of Rwanda’s good rainfall, there are many lakes.

This volcano is Nyiragongo, by Lake Kibuye in the west of Rwanda.


The fertile volcanic soil and plentiful rainfall mean that crops grow well.

The crop growing around this typical Rwandan village is sorghum, one of the staple foods of Rwanda.

It can be made into porridge and beer.


But look at this photo. What is happening?

People are being forced to cultivate land which is too steep. This causes the erosion in the photo.

This shows that the farmland no longer produces enough to feed people, so they have to farm less suitable land.


Why is this?

  • Global warming means rain in Rwanda is less reliable.
  • Global dimming means less rain.

In January 1994, the World Food Programme warned that 800,000 people were at risk of starvation in Rwanda.

This means:

Remember that date and the number of people.


So if your land does not provide enough food, what can you do?

Make the land profitable – grow cash crops like coffee and use the money to buy food.

Look at this photo of a Rwandan coffee packet. See how important coffee is to Rwanda. Look at the man’s shoes. Not many people in Rwanda own shoes.


Up to 75% of Rwanda's foreign exchange earnings come from coffee.

This gave producer countries quotas of coffee they were allowedto sell.

Coffee used to give Rwanda a good income.

Rich countries and poor countries made an agreement in the 1950s through the United Nations, called the International Coffee Agreement.

Because the amount of coffee on the market was controlled, the price was stable.


But look at this graph:

It shows the price of 100kg of coffee between 1997 and 2003.


What happened?

In 1989, the United States government, under pressure from multinational companies, refused to re-sign the International Coffee Agreement.

Without US support,the Agreement ended.

More coffee came on to the market, and the price dropped.

The Rwandan economy collapsed within months.

4 companies dominate the world coffee market
4 companies dominate the world coffee market:

How can companies influence the US government?

  • Nestlé
  • Phillip Morris
  • Procter and Gamble
  • Sara Lee

Coffee is the second-biggest commodity by value in the world.


Nestlé and Procter and Gamble alone control more than 50% of world coffee trade. That gives them enormous power.

So if you are a poor coffee farmer, you have to accept the price offered to you by the major companies. If you don’t, who else are you going to sell your coffee to?

The average wage in Rwanda is £122

a year

Nestlé’s net profits are £112

a second

that’s £3,534,579,439 a year

or quadruple the entire national wealth of Rwanda

Rwanda has debts of over £717,750,000

21% of its income is spent servicing its debt

quadruple what it is able to spend on health

has the price of coffee in the shops dropped
Has the price of coffee in the shops dropped?


  • Returns on our investments and shares
  • Interest on our bank and building society accounts
  • Into our pension schemes
  • Lower taxes – if companies make greater profits, which are taxed, we have to pay less personal tax.

No! So where do the profits go?

What happens when you can’t grow enough food and you don’t have money to buy food?

When there is not enough food in the country to feed everyone?

between april and june 1994 800 000 people were killed in the genocide in rwanda
Between April and June, 1994, 800,000 people were killed in the genocide in Rwanda.

The photograph was taken at a school in the south of Rwanda where about 20,000 people were killed. The site is now a memorial to the genocide. Some of the clothes of those killed have been hung up here in the school’s assembly hall, so that no-one can deny what happened and so people will remember.


The reasons for the genocide are numerous and highly complex – perhaps they will never be fully understood.

But it is generally agreed that the perceived pressure on the land and the economic collapse were two of the factors that contributed to it and that perhaps the genocide might not have happened without these factors.

One of the things that the people who killed were told was that the people they killed would take their land.


The churches are again full of people singing.

The country is being re-built.

The children of Rwanda are smiling once more.

The capital, Kigali

The schools are once again full of students.




Now let’s look at this question:

What do Rwandan coffee producers do for their 0.05%?


These are members of a coffee-producing co-operative in Kibuye Province.

A coffee tree takes four years to come to fruition; during that time, it must be weeded and mulched – it’s very labour intensive.


The coffee cherries which contain the beans don’t all ripen at the same time, so every day people must return to the trees to pick the ripe cherries – again, very time-consuming.


Most Rwandans get their water from the lake or river, so the water to wash the beans must be brought up in these 20 litre jerry cans.


After the cherries are washed, they are dried. It takes about two days to remove the skins from enough cherries to fill the basket. The basket will then be carried by hand to the nearest coffee buying post, about 4 km away. It weighs about 30kg, and will bring about 20p.


Being so labour-intensive, everyone must get involved, even the youngest children, so they can’t go to school.


Most children in the UK get diarrhoea in their lives.

Imagine what it is like in Rwanda, where the water comes from lakes and rivers and there are almost no toilets.

Diarrhoea is cheap and simple to treat– in the UK the medicine is free.

There is no National Health Service in Rwanda.You must buy your own medicines.

If you do not treat diarrhoea, you dehydrate. Eventually this kills you.

If you cannot afford the few cents for medicine,you die.

6,000 children globally die of diarrhoea

every day.

In Rwanda, 20% of children don’t reach their 5th birthday.

10% don’t reach their 1st.

The biggest killer is diarrhoea.


Even if you grow your own food, you still need money.

This child cannot afford even second-hand clothes, and wears plastic bags instead.

How old do you think he is?

He is actually 15. He is very small for his age.

29% of children in Rwanda are clinically underweight.

43% will have their growth stunted by malnutrition.

50% of people in the UK are clinically overweight.

23% of people in the UK are clinically obese.


Beatrice is 43 years old, and would like you to know that she considers herself to be very poor. She says she cannot afford to buy clothes or medicine, or to mend the leaking roof of her house. She finds it very difficult to afford to send her children to school.

Beatrice is a coffee grower who works in a co-operative.

She says she feels powerless in the face of the falling price of coffee.

Does she look rich or poor to you?

What tells you this?

How old do you think she is?

Life expectancy in the UKis 81 years

- and rising.

In Rwanda it is 39 years

- and falling.


Seraphina’s greater income means that her diet is better, that she can buy nice clothes, that she has the time to have her hair done and the extra cash to buy some modest jewellery.

Seraphina also works for a coffee co-operative.

Do you think she is richer or poorer than Beatrice? Why?

Seraphina has a greater income than Beatrice because the type of co-operative she works in is different.

Seraphina works in a Fairtradeco-operative.

fairtrade means
Fairtrade means:

Fairtrade is an agreement between coffee sellers and buyers. It bypasses the big multinational companies.

that coffee growers can have the confidence to invest in their own future and be able to work their own way out of poverty.

  • guaranteed minimum prices for producers – up to 3 times more

Guarantees a better deal for Third World Producers

  • long term commitment to buy
  • premium for community support e.g. health and education
  • commitment to protect human rights and the environment
  • certification and training
abahuzamugambi co operative

Seraphina works in the

Abahuzamugambi Co-operative

in Maraba, Rwanda.

‘working together to develop ourselves’


The story of Abahuzamugambi’s coffee starts with the flowers in August.

Sadly, they don’t smell of coffee.


Then the cherries arebrought to the co-operative. Here, the cherries are being checked by (left to right), the grower, the president of the Co-op, Oswald, and Olive, who’s in charge of selection.


Then they are put into water. The best quality cherries are the densest, so any that float are taken out.

Because Rwanda is quite cool due to its altitude, the cherries grow slowly, which makes them denser.

There is a natural enzyme on the surface of the cherry which eats the sugar in the skin, fermenting it; this affects the flavour later on, so has to be controlled very carefully.


Still in the water, the cherries then have the skins sloughed off by these machines.

Each cherry has two beans inside.


The beans then go into this water slide. It has a gentle gradient – 1 degree. The densest cherries settle first; the lighter are carried further by the current. This ingeniously automatically grades the beans.


The beans are then washed 5 times in clean spring water…

…until they squeak like a little tree frog when rubbed.


By this stage the beans have been through a lot, so they are laid out to rest in the shade for a day.


Then they are laid out in the sun for two weeks to dry, being constantly turned by hand to ensure they dry evenly. The skins are now crisp, and the beans are known as ‘parchment’ coffee.


The beans are checked by hand again (by Seraphina) then this skin is removed by a machine, operated by Cansius.

The beans are now what is called ‘green’ coffee.


Here, Steven is hand-roasting the beans.

In London, a company called Union Coffee Roasters roasts the beans.

The coffee is then ground and packaged.


Coffee was first grown in Africa. Here, it is being brewed in a centuries-old ceremony in Ethiopia.

Thus there is a link between the trendy coffee lifestyle of today and the African coffee story.


There is also a very direct link between our enjoyment of cappuccinos in coffee bars like this one in Kampala to the people who grow the coffee.


Jean-Marie Vianney is one of those people.

With the extra income from Fairtrade, he has been able to build a house, diversify his farm, invest in more coffee trees, buy clothes for his wife and send his children to secondary school.

But he still couldn’t afford to drink coffee.


So Abahuzamugambi bought the equipment necessary to roast, grind and brew coffee.

So now growers like Venerande can taste the quality.

This enables them to improve the quality of the coffee, as they can taste the difference.


The success of the co-op has improved life for others in the community. This new bank – the first in the village – was built for the co-op, but everyone can use it.


Many people are learning of the benefits of Fairtrade.

This is an article about the co-op which appeared in an Italian newspaper.


This is another article about the co-op:

As you will see, its message is rather different….


FROM her smallholding in southern Rwanda, Beneconcille Murekezi pro-duces enough green coffee beans to ensure her three children get to school each day. That is some achievement, as Rwanda tentatively recovers from geno-cide 10 years ago.

As a member of a cooperative which sells coffee beans to a UK firm, Union Coffee Roasters, Murekezi, 38, is in a perilous position. In fact, she is in a poverty trap. There is a ceiling through which real improvements to her life and community cannot break through.

Murekezi and thousands of her co­operative colleagues would like to process all the beans rejected by Union Coffee Roasters to produce their own roasted coffee. Micro bank loans would enable the co-op to invest in new machinery. But under arcane world trade rules known as tariff escalation, Murekezi's co-operative cannot 'add value' to their beans without incurring punitive financial penalties that would make the whole project unviable.


So, what’s going on?

Why can’t Abahuzamugambi continue their success by exporting processed coffee rather than just green coffee?

Why aren’t they being allowed to work their way out of poverty?


Which of these brands of instant coffees do you recognise?

If you live in a developed country, you probably only recognise Nescafé.

All these coffees, including the Nescafé, were bought in an African supermarket.


Nescafé comes from Switzerland, Dormans from Kenya, Star from Uganda and Africafe from Tanzania.

So, how come you can buy Western instant coffee in Africa but you can’t buy African instant coffee in the West?

There is much more profit to be made from processed goods like instant coffee than raw commodities like green coffee. So rich countries do everything they can to stop poor countries from selling processed goods. They do this to protect their own manufacturers. So:

Canada charges Kenya 12 times more to import processed coffee than raw coffee.

On average, rich countries charge poor countries tariffs (import taxes) which are 4 times higher than they charge other rich countries.

Aid rules have made it effectively illegal for poor countries to charge their own tariffs.


There are other, ‘non-tariff’ barriers to poor countries selling processed goods.

Star coffee wanted to sell its ground coffee in Europe.

The European Union said that Star had to modernise its packaging.

The new packaging equipment required would have cost Star 7 years’ turnover.


If it’s so difficult to make a living from coffee…

Why don’t they grow something else?



Growers have spent a lot of capital and labour in their coffee plantations, and it’s what they know how to grow.

commodity market:

It’s the same for almost all things that poor countries produce – sugar, cocoa…

If you grow something else, there is nowhere to sell it locally and no way to get it to market.


And anyway:

Fairtrade proves that trade can be fair and profitable.

sign in Uganda


Fairtrade’s great!

What can I buy?

footballs, rice, skirts, mango chutney, red wine, cashew nuts, penne pasta, T shirts, Christmas puddings, Belgian chocolates, muesli, Easter eggs, trousers, sugar, furniture, shoes, mats, spices, sneakers, jewellery, mint sweets, jigsaws, greeting cards, Earl grey tea, biscuits, shirts, bags, choc chip cookies, cocoa powder, white wine, bananas…

Where can I buy it?

Oxfam, Co-operative supermarkets, your local Fairtrade shop, church groups, supermarkets, charity shops, mail order, the internet…


What can I do?

  • Tell the shops you buy thingsfrom that you want a Fairtradealternative – they do act.
  • Write to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown; Charles Kennedy and Michael Howard: tell them to change the trade rules.
  • Change your bank to an ethical one, and pressure your pension company to invest ethically.
  • Buy Fairtrade… and tell your friends!

For more information:

Download the accompanying booklet to this presentation free at…



Campaign for trade justice, debt relief and better aid.

Advocacy for fairer trade rules.

Ethical and green high street banking services.

Ethical investment advice.

The Rough Guide to a Better World, according tothe UK’s Department for International Development…


“As a global community, we sink or swim together… It is precisely because parts of the developing world are cut off from the rising wealth generated through trade that some of them feel desperate. We should not be so surprised that such despair at the inequalities in wealth fosters anger and social tension – the kind, it must be admitted, which might even undermine global security and create the conditions in which terrorism can emerge.”

Also available free from the post office





Written by Jonathan

Photography by Annie Chamberland, Rob Denton, Sara Edström, Julia di Mambro,Jonathan Penson, Jeremy Torz andVSO Media Unit –