Coffee growing gave me a new lease of life

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By Denyse Tuyishime

Theopista Nyiramahoro

Her name is Theopista Nyiramahoro, a resident of Musaza Sector, Kirehe district. She is a commercial farmer and she attribute her success to skilled leadership of President Paul Kagame.

Coupled with her nerve for taking risks, the 45-year-old has become one of the big coffee farmers and dealers in Rwanda. Nyiramahoro dropped out of school. With no other option, she ventured into coffee farming. With her passion for coffee farming.

In Rubavu district, where owning an acre of land could pass for a privilege – “I started by growing legumes such as beans and maize on the family land. In 1998, she decided to venture into coffee growing because of the good prices offered to farmers at the time.

Nyiramahoro exploited the political stability in the country, adding that farmers were assured of ready market for their coffee.  She seized the opportunity and planted over 200 coffee seedlings on a small piece of land she owned.

With support from agronomists she was able to expand her plantation to more than eight hectares of coffee with more than 2,000 trees within five years.

Her 20-year journey in farming has been characterised by persistence, endurance, courage and determination and is anchored on her passion for farming.

More than 400,000 households in Rwanda depend on the crop as a source of income. The country grows mainly Arabica coffee.

The moderator of the first session at National Dialogue Umushyikirano wanted to cut short Theopista Nyiramahoro, a coffee farmer. But the lady told him, “Hold on. I cannot go without mentioning a great experience from Colombia.”
As the audience was staring at her, she said “in that country, there are as many as coffee trees, as there are grasses in a farm. They told me: our country is a Christian country, so when you confess your sins to the priest, they ask you to plant 100 ha of coffee, instead of making you say a rosary. ”

From this experience, Nyiramahoro told participants, “instead of obliging Christians to recite a rosary as part of confession, Rwandans should also be asked to plant coffee trees.”
Nyiramahoro’s reference on coffee is not a hazard. Coffee transformed her life as many of other Rwandan citizens.

From street vending, Nyiramahoro has risen to become President of coffee farmers’ federation, which brings together 350,000 farmers.

Nyiramahoro is thankful to President Kagame, whose constant advices made her rise from rags to riches.

“In the last five years, I could barely raise Rwf 200 from peanuts selling, but I am a member of a cooperative of coffee farmers with now Rwf 80 million capital,” she said.

Nyiramahoro said in the past, a women had no right to coffee earnings, but the government has put in place gender friendly policies that allow women to share business ideas with their husbands.

This allowed Nyiramahoro to prosper business wise, and to be trusted with coffee farmers’ leadership of national federation of coffee farmers. Local leaders describe Nyiramahoro is a dedicated and hard working woman who has turned risks into opportunities.

This also allows her to travel to several countries to benefit coffee trainings and expertise to apply in the local context. Coffee is one of Rwanda’s most important cash crops, representing more than 25% of the country’s total exports.

The cup of excellence which goes to the best coffees worldwide is one of the premium rewards for coffee farmers. Every year, the best Rwandan coffee is sold at least $ 70 per international online auction per kilogram, which gives the farmers motivation.




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