The Vunga Cooperative was established in 2009 and consists of 260 farmer families who contribute cherry to the Vunga washing station. Located in the north-west of Rwanda, close to the border with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the washing station is tiny, and is hidden between steep hills and thousands of plantain and banana trees.
It is supplied by water from a natural source in the nearby Virunga National Park, home to some of the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas. Very little coffee is produced in this region, but the little that is has a reputation for being of exceptional quality.
In 2012 coffee from Vunga placed 13th in the Rwanda Cup of Excellence competition, and 4th in 2014. Despite this, the cooperative was severely lacking in infrastructure when they partnered up with Muraho Trading Company (MTC) and Raw Material in 2017.
In 2020, Raw Material paid a premium of $0.35 USD per kilo of milled green coffee to the Vunga cooperative in order to help fund some of the necessary upgrades, totalling 2 million Rwandan Francs (US$2,400 USD). The cooperative posted their highest ever profits by selling coffee through MTC and Raw Material, and reinvested a total of 6 million Francs ($7,200USD) towards station upgrades. MTC financed a further 6 million Francs in order to complete this work. This money allowed the cooperative to increase their dry storage capacity, build new washing serpentines, double the number of drying tables, and to purchase new fermentation tanks.
The coffee itself is hand-picked at peak ripeness, and is delivered to the washing station where it is hand-sorted and floated to separate out unripe and defective beans. It is then pulped and fermented for an average of 6 hours before being washed in the newly constructed serpentines. It is then laid out to dry on raised beds for a minimum of 35 days.
The resulting cup reminds us of why well fell in love with Rwandan coffee in the first place. It is clean, crisp, and beautifully balanced, with notes of chamomile, redcurrant and sweet lemon.
We will be donating £1 per kilo sold of this coffee to the Nyabihu Landslide Appeal. In May 2020 the Nyabihu communities in northern Rwanda, including Vunga, were devastated by flooding and mudslides. The resulting damage included the destruction of 325 homes (including 38 homes from families that deliver coffee to the Vunga or Shyira washing stations), and the loss of livestock, crops, classrooms, churches, healthcare centres, electric and water supplies.
Phase 1 of the recovery effort involved clearing debris, providing food and care packages, and emergency housing to the families left homeless. The next stage involves rebuilding and replanting all that has been lost, including the building of new homes, structural upgrades, and providing a store of emergency provisions to minimise the impact should such events happen again.
With your support we are proud so far to have donated over £2,000 to the appeal, but there is plenty more work still to be done.