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Farm Radio Weekly

Rwanda: Farmers boost profits with “coffee bikes” (Edmonton Journal and projectrwanda.org)

Célestin grows his coffee in the Kabara region of Rwanda. Like many other coffee farmers, he is only able to transport about 50 kilograms of coffee cherries on an old bicycle. Most of the roads he travels are unpaved. Often, he has to push his old bike through many kilometres of steep hills and valleys to get to a coffee washing station.Célestin was one of the first to try the “coffee bike.” With this new bicycle, he can now transport up to 200 kilograms of coffee cherries. The coffee bike allows him to pedal with ease through Rwanda’s hilly countryside. He says the new bike halves the time it takes him to travel from the field to the washing station.

And this helps him earn more money. The faster the cherries get to the washing station, the better the quality, and the better the price for the farmer. If they can get their cherries to the washing station quickly, farmers can earn 15 US cents per kilogram.According to the organization Sustaining Partnership to Enhance Rural Enterprise and Agribusiness Development, there are almost half a million small-scale coffee growers in Rwanda. The average plantation has 200 coffee trees. These trees are the main source of income for coffee farmers.

The idea of a coffee bike came from an American NGO called Project Rwanda. An entrepreneur and cyclist from California invented the bikes. They are specially designed with a large carrying platform over the back wheel, making the bike ¾ of meter longer than the average bike and are easy to maintain. As only one in 40 Rwandans can afford a good bicycle, Project Rwanda helps farmers to obtain microcredit loans to purchase coffee bikes.

But it’s not only coffee growers who benefit. Project Rwanda also trains mechanics to assemble and repair the bikes. This ensures the sustainability of the coffee bike project and creates jobs for Rwandans. So far, Project Rwanda has distributed almost 1,000 coffee bikes.

As for Célestin, he figures that his coffee bike cuts one hour off the time he spends transporting his beans to the washing station. What does he do with that hour he has gained? He spends it on other income generating activities.


Celestin riding a Coffee Bike.  source: projectrwanda.org

4 Responses to “Rwanda: Farmers boost profits with “coffee bikes” (Edmonton Journal and projectrwanda.org)”

  1. Pages tagged "coffee" Says:

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  2. Heather Miller Says:

    Thank you to Peter Kettler from the Coffee Lifeline Project for sharing the following information on another project, which utilizes the power of radio in an effort to aid that region’s coffee farmers.

    I began the Coffee Lifeline project in spring of ’04 with the original intent of providing remote coffee farming communities in Rwanda access to international market information as an attempt to prevent them from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous “coyotes”, those people who gather up the picked cherries from farmers and deliver them to processing mills. In partnership with the Freeplay Foundation and the USAID sponsored SPREAD project, we have so far delivered more than 700 self-powered (crank and solar-powered radios) to farmer listening groups, made up of 20-30 farmers, in every coffee-producing sector in the country. We are scheduled to deliver another 600 over the next year.

    While the original goal was to provide market information, we quickly realized that we could use the medium of radio to broadcast much needed information on a variety of subjects to the farming community. In May of ’07, through a partnership with Radio Salus, a community-based radio station based in Butare, we began broadcasting the weekly show, Imbere Heza (Bright Future) to the more than 450,000 farmers throughout Rwanda. Besides current market conditions, we also broadcast information regarding modern agronomy practices, HIV / AIDS prevention, women’s health issues, organic and Fair Trade certification, co-op news and info, stories from other coffee-producing countries as well as a weekly children’s story corner.

    Last year we also formed a partnership with Developing Radio Partners, a foundation begun by Bill Siemering who was one of the founding fathers of National Public Radio here in the United States. DRP helps to support and in some cases create community-based radio in economically challenged regions around the world. Our plan going forward is to create a web of independent broadcast facilities in numerous coffee-producing countries around the world, linked through shared agricultural and cultural information that will hopefully strengthen the many indigenous communities that rely on coffee farming for their main source of income. Our efforts in Rwanda has become the model for this project.

  3. Farm Radio Weekly » Farm Radio Weekly Archive » Notes to broadcasters on farmers’ bank Says:

    […] use: -“Liberia: Farmers rebuild agriculture sector against the odds” (FRW#9, February 2008) -“Rwanda: Farmers boost profits with ‘coffee bikes’” (FRW#8, January […]

  4. Farm Radio Weekly » Farm Radio Weekly Archive » Notes to broadcasters: Microfinance Says:

    […] -Rwanda: Farmers boost profits with ‘coffee bikes’ (FRW 8, January 2008): http://weekly.farmradio.org/2008/01/28/rwanda-farmers-boost-profits-with-%e2%80%9ccoffee-bikes%e2%80… Farm Radio International produced a series of scripts about microfinance and credit: -Women and […]

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