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Situated just below the equator near the heart of the continent of Africa is the beautiful country of Rwanda. The landlocked country sits atop the East African plateau, along the mountains of the Great Rift Valley. The mountainous elevations provide a stage to grow incredibly dynamic coffees, balancing out regular sunshine and high temperatures and creating a temperate climate and optimal environment for coffee production.

The agricultural conditions in Rwanda have always been ideal for coffee growing, but it was the post-harvest systems that needed improvement. The quality of the crops were unable to be maintained post-harvest, due to a lack of infrastructure in place. Coffee washing stations began to formulate as neighboring producers partnered to develop systems that could support the maintenance of the specialty grade coffee being grown.

Ejo Heza Co-operative

These washing stations are often cooperatives, creating opportunities for producers around the region to process their coffee in a more sustainable and high-quality manner. Not only do these cooperatives provide the equipment and infrastructure necessary to process coffee cherries, but they also lend support for improving agricultural practices. Educational opportunities like community cuppings, workshops, and demonstrations provide professional development for local producers seeking to improve the quality of their coffee.

In Western Rwanda, located in the region of Rutsiro, resides the community known as Ejo Heza. This community is made up of around 400 women coffee producers, all working together to harvest incredible coffee and build sustainable businesses. Collectively, they manage a shared plot of land and bring their harvested cherries to a nearby washing station, the Kopokama Cooperative. Many of the women have several coffee trees planted at their homes, which are harvested and processed with the Ejo Heza coffee.

Coffee production is a key component for the Ejo Heza women, but it is just one aspect of their community. Members of Ejo Heza contribute to a joint savings program, creating opportunities for members to take on micro-loans to develop business opportunities. Some have opened small market storefronts and others have invested in a variety of crops to sell.

Holding green coffee

The name Ejo Heza translates to “a beautiful tomorrow.” There’s no question why the women in this community carry this moniker. With intentionality and dedication to their craft, each and every participant in Ejo Heza are working towards creating a beautiful future. Their support for each other is growing their community and establishing more sustainable lifestyles. And the coffee they are growing is impacting thousands of lives around the world, as people get to experience the beautiful coffee grown in Rutsiro, Rwanda.

The future of coffee grown in Rwanda is bright, thanks to communities like Ejo Heza and cooperatives like Kopokama. It’s exciting for us to offer Ejo Heza’s coffee on our menu and participate in the inspiring stories each one of the community members is a part of.

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