Youth-driven transformation in the coffee cooperative


Abakundakawa Rushashi, a registered coffee cooperative in northern Rwanda since 2004, produces high-altitude coffee in the hills of the Gakenke district.  The Ishema Youth Coffee Group, part of the cooperative, started in 2018 with 233 members and has now grown to over 400 young members.

"In the beginning, we worked at the coffee washing station of the cooperative as casual workers, without considering the possibility of becoming coffee producers. As young people, we wanted to earn as much money as possible in the shortest period. We could not imagine how we could invest in coffee production, a crop that takes almost three years to yield the first harvest," said Gilbert Muhire, the president of Ishema Youth Coffee.

Nyirakamana and Hakizimana harvesting coffee grown under Ishema Youth Coffee Brand

In 2019, the attitude of the youth changed. The Abakundakawa cooperative, in collaboration with Agriterra, organised mobilisation events in their village to attract young people to the coffee sector, not only in production but also throughout the entire value chain. These events included a football tournament, which the participants enjoyed. During the events, the local government, the cooperative, and Agriterra clearly explained the role of young people in the sustainability of the coffee sector.

Today Ishema Youth Coffee Group has grown to 477 members organised into 13 groups, with each group representing one cell. Each member  grows coffee and   has 100 coffee trees. They also contribute to agro-ecology by producing organic compost from coffee pulps, which they sell to cooperative members and other local farmers. The earnings from these sales go directly to the youth group.

Uwamahoro is weighing fully ripened cherries of coffee.They will be sold under Ishema Youth Coffee brand.

To keep attracting more young people to join the sector, they have diversified their income sources by starting to rear livestock, including 104 pigs, as well as cows and goats.
Additionally, they are contributing to the coffee sector by training their parents in new techniques and by transporting coffee cherries from the field to the washing stations. 

Ishema Youth Coffee members selecting fully ripened cherries from coffee trees.

To become part of the youth council, a young member needs at least 100 coffee trees and a share worth €80. The youth council currently consists of 477 members. Together, they grow coffee on 3 hectares of land. The youths sell their coffee cherries to the cooperative, just like all other farmers. 
All coffee is sold by the cooperative. If the cooperative exports coffee under the youth’s name, the youth members receive bonuses in return. Branding their coffee has allowed the youth to achieve a premium price. They sell their coffee at €7/kg, where other coffee is sold at €5/kg. 

Uwamahoro Clarisse (24 years old) has ventured into livestock pig farming. She is planning to provide piglets to other youth under "One Pig Per Youth Challenge.”


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