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The Kivu area is hotter than the Northern and Southern Provinces, and has the perfect conditions for coffee cultivation, with some of the highest elevations in the country, nutrient-rich volcanic soil and unique micro-climate created by the humid equatorial mist that forms from Lake Kivu. It is known for producing unique coffees that are complex and delicate.

This coffee was processed at a washing station called Murundo that is privately owned by Furaha Umwizeye. Umwizeye, a Rwandan national, completed a Master’s degree in economics from the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, and was motivated to return to Rwanda after the genocide and contribute in a positive way to the society and economy.

“From the beginning, our goal was to produce a coffee of high quality for the specialty market.” Umwizeye explains. “To ensure the best quality, one has to have control of the production process. Traditionally in Rwanda, coffee washing stations and coffee farms are not vertically integrated. The ownership is separated. Coffee washing stations rely on multiple small coffee farmers for their supply of cherries [who typically only own 100–300 coffee trees]. We identified that to ensure the same high quality year after year, one has to be able to control how the coffee trees are being produced and harvested.”

Today, Umwizeye has planted over 80,000 coffee trees across three farms (Jarama, Kamajumba -which is actually located on an island on Lake Kivu- and Nyaruzina) next to the picturesque Lake Kivu, and has branded her coffees “Kivu Belt”. The three Kivu Belt project farms have 18 permanent workers and 130 seasonal workers. Umwizeye is constantly rewarded by her coffee farm project and seeing the direct impact that her business has on the region and its people. The coffee farms are very organised and well laid out, using the best sustainable agricultural practices to maximise yield and quality.

The Murundo Washing station is located at 1,786m above sea level and collects cherries from Umwizey’s farms and 300 local producers, who have farms located at 1,700m -2,100m above sea level. This coffee from this lot comes from the small producers who deliver to the Murundo Coffee Washing Station. They have small plots of land with an average of only 300 coffee trees each (less than a quarter of a hectare), and also use their land to cultivate crops like maize and beans to feed themselves and their families. Most of their income from the sale of coffee is used to send their children to school, pay for medical care, and for investment in livestock such as purchasing a cow for milk, which is then used at home and for sale locally.

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