The Ejo Heza plantation is owned and operated by a group of women farmers, and is located on a picturesque hill slope rolling gently down to the glistening waters of Lake Kivu, the natural border between this westernmost part of Rwanda and the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
The term Ejo Heza in their native language means, ‘a better tomorrow’.
If you know anything about Rwanda, you will appreciate that little more than twenty years ago the country was blown apart by a 100-day period of genocide, in which a million Rwandans lost their lives, and the chaotic years that followed it.
In the past twenty years or so, Rwanda has succeeded in achieving an almost unbelievable level of recovery with an intense focus having been placed on rehabilitating both its economy and its people. Nowhere is this more evident than in the revival of the country’s coffee industry, which is playing its part in rebuilding both the local economy and also in rebuilding society.
The group purchased this communal plot as a deliberate means of helping it to meet one of its key objectives; the promotion of unity and reconciliation within a community which was torn apart by the genocide of 1994.
In the years following the genocide, Rwandan society remained shattered with murderers and victims continuing to live side by side. Considerable efforts have been made in the years since to rebuild society and the Ejo Heza initiative is adding to these. It brings women together to work for two days every week and in doing so, to talk with and to support each other, and to help each other to address the personal challenges they would struggle to overcome if they always worked alone.
‘My father was in prison for committing genocide’, explains Christine Nyiranshimyimana. ‘It was shameful for me to be spoken of within the community as the child of a killer. Today, there is no more shame’.
The other main aim of Ejo Heza is to empower women, and the group have already benefitted both from gender equity training and also by gaining more control over their family finances. By selling their own coffee, these women earn more cash themselves and they use their earnings very effectively for the benefit of their families. They can also access loans through their membership of Ejo Heza which provides them extra opportunities to increase their coffee production, or else to set themselves up with alternative sources of revenue such as buying cows which produce a regular supply of milk and manure.
This is all on top of the higher prices they already receive by selling their fair trade organic coffee through their wider co-operative, Kopakama. While their neighbouring farmers receive 250 francs per kilogram of coffee cherries at the government collection point, from their co-op they receive a first payment of 360 francs per kg. Later this month at their annual general assembly, they expect to confirm a second payment of a further 30 francs per kg.
Here, this vital extra income is routinely used to cover school expenses for their children, and for other important household improvements such as buying mattresses as a more comfortable sleeping option to the mats they have been using until now. By working together, and by finding a better market for their coffee under fair trade terms, the women of Ejo Heza are already starting to realise their dream of a better tomorrow.
Additionally, Kopakama Co op's farmers are committed to improving their local communities. So far, they have brought in gravity-fed water to serve the community and used the Fairtrade premium to access electricity. They have also bought the co-operative’s Conference Hall. Their vision is to move together towards a more stable price and market for their coffee.
This offering from the women of Ejo Heza is Rounded and clean, with notes of strawberry, lime, and peach, a real treat.
-Producers: Ejo Heza women farmers group
-Location: Kigali, Rutsiro district, Western province
-Elevation: 1500 - 1800m
-Process: Washed, Sun dried on raise beds
-Harvests: Feb - June, Oct - Nov
-Certifications: Fairtrade, Organic, Rainforest Alliance
-Roast Profile: Light/Filter.
Suitable for all filter methods; Chemex, V60, Aeropress, Clever, Swiss Gold, Moccamaster, Cold Drip/Brew.
***Not ideal for espresso.