A travel journal: 17th African Fine Coffees Conference (AFCA)

A travel journal from Mary Allen Lindemann

Feb 9, 2019 / If you just open your eyes and look outside your window the message is clear. En route to Kigali, Rwanda to attend the African Fine Coffee Conference where my friend and women in coffee champion Phyllis Johnson will be speaking. I look forward to hearing her wisdom and seeing others doing amazing work in the coffee world including Jeanine Niyonzima Aroian of JNP Coffee and the powerful women of Burundi. Feels like a much needed pivot point. Next chapter….here I come.

Feb 10, 2019 / As those around me know, I believe that before you can fully appreciate coffee, you need to have a better understanding of the people. Today I decided to hire a driver and asked him to take me where he felt I should go. First, stop. The Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. This monument of history shows with unbelievable beauty and power the stories of what led up to unimaginable atrocities in 1994. A three month reign of terror which saw neighbor vs neighbor and family members systematically killed in front of one another before they themselves killed.

So much to think about and try to make any sense of. There are two installations which will stay with me. One was made up of three rooms: one was walls of photographs any surviving friends and family members had, the next which I took no photos of out of respect for those placed here finally at rest were found skulls and bones uncovered from mass graves and then the final room which displays clothing and other artifacts found in the graves. People who were living good lives one day and then suddenly everything changed and somehow the world was not listening.

The second installation was the children’s room. Photos of faces and next to them who they were, how old, what food they liked, which games they played. And then, if known, last words said before killed and weapon used. As the sign said, the future lost.

In the midst of so much sorrow and grieving, I was amazed by the overall sense that this memorial was meant to educate so that we not forget but at the same time promote one message: it is not Tutsi or Hutu. The future is in moving forward as one people….all Rwandan. As I look about the city tonight, it is incredible to see that they are well on their way to building a strong economy for all which the world will want to embrace. We have much to learn from others.

Feb 11, 2019 / Before my first trip to Africa, I envisioned a land of desert and heat. I have learned that it is so much more. The lakes are the most magnificent you can ever imagine. This the view from the Emeraude Hotel where we stayed last night….a view of DRC in the distance.

Feb 12, 2019 / Now about coffee. It’s always interesting to visit privately owned as well as co-operative coffee farms. There are certain standards of excellence and socially responsible practices we seek but how one gets there differs from country to county, region to region, farm to farm. There is much experimentation with coffee plants and a great deal of conversation about climate change and what a sustainable price for coffee is.

Coffee folks from a variety of countries are here to attend the AFCA conference which begins Wednesday. A group of us drive from Kigali to Karongi to visit the Kopakama co-op and see their dry mill. Since it is early in the harvest season, there were not coffee cherries to see being processed, but we were able to tour their beautiful new facility and get an overview on their cupping protocol.

Next stop was the Kopakaki co-operative where we learned about their partnership with JICA, a Japanese coffee company focused on ways to find solutions to problems with coffee in Rwanda such as coffee rust and being more proactive regarding climate change so the coffee meets their standards for their customers. Interesting to see experiments using banana leaves instead of plastic bags around plants in the nursery and new methods of separating coffee cherries according to quality.

Much to still share about my amazing visit to Kivubelt Coffee and an adventure day, but for now the 17th African Fine Coffees Conference (AFCA) begins with a great espresso beverage prepared by these fantastic barista! Murakoze!

 

We drove from Karongi to Mugonero Lake Kivu Shore for the next stop on my coffee journey: Kivubelt Coffee. Privately owned by Furaha Umwizeye, Kivubelt is comprised of three farms near Lake Kivu: Jarama, Kamajumba (located on an island on Lake Kivu), and Nyaruzina. Together they’re called “Kivu Belt.”

Umwizeye, who was born in Rwanda, completed a Master’s degree in economics in Switzerland, but was motivated to return to Rwanda after the genocide, to contribute in a positive way to the society and economy.

“From the beginning, our goal was to produce a coffee of high quality for the specialty market. “We identified that to ensure the same high quality year after year, one has to be able to control how the coffee trees are being produced and harvested. To ensure the best quality, one has to have control of the production process.” Vertical integration of coffee farm and washing station which are traditionally separate in Rwanda is vital.

I had the opportunity to visit the Kamajumba Farm which meant a scenic boat-ride from Mugonero to Kamajumba-Nyaruzena Island and spend time with the inspiring visionary owner, Furaha.

How can I begin to describe what it’s like to receive the reception we did arriving for lunch at Kamajumba Farm. Beautiful people. Beautiful land. Beautiful coffee. Murakoze.