Women in RCI’s Rwanda Program Secure Largest Commercial Deal Yet with The Marriott Hotel

Bloomberg Philanthropies press release, October 6, 2016:

Women in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Economic Development program secured a major deal for the women participating in the business training program with the Marriott International’s first hotel in Rwanda. This signals that the women who have been provided business training through Bloomberg Philanthropies have now entered into Rwanda’s growing hospitality, crafts, and agriculture industry on a larger scale.

The graduates of the training program through the non-profit, Bloomberg Philanthropies supported Relationship Coffee Institute are providing the Marriott with locally grown coffee from their own coffee cooperatives, serving their own brand of coffee at the Q Cafe within the hotels, and working as staff at the hotel providing guest services. Crafts from Bloomberg Philanthropies supported artisans have been prominently placed throughout the hotel for a truly local Rwandan experience for the global hotel.

On Tuesday, October 4th, Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson, political dignitaries including Rwanda Prime Minister Murekezi and Bloomberg Philanthropies Director of the Women’s Economic Development initiative in Africa, Verna Eggelston attended Kigali Marriott Hotel’s opening ceremony. The 254-room Kigali Marriott will be among Rwanda’s biggest and most luxurious properties, which will further enhance Kigali’s reputation as a hub for conferences and conventions.

“The opening of this Marriott Hotel is providing long anticipated market activity for Rwandan women. Their café in the hotel will provide the global business community with a perfect example of how business, philanthropy and government can work together to improve people’s lives,” said Patricia E. Harris, CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The Rwandan government is focused on building core businesses including agriculture and tourism, which generated 7.1% of the country’s GDP in 2015 and predicts it to rise at 4.1% per year through 2025, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. After seeing women enrolled in the program present at a major coffee conference, Let’s Talk Coffee, asked the Relationship Coffee Institute to implement its training to all 400,000 Rwandan coffee farmers in efforts to bolster economic growth.

Through partnerships with Women for Women International, the Relationship Coffee Institute and Sustainable Harvest, Bloomberg Philanthropies is supporting women in Sub-Saharan Africa with innovative workforce training to gain new job skills, basic business training, life skills and support networks in these sectors providing participants with the tools and resources to sustain an income, learn the importance of saving, and small business management.

Across all its efforts, Bloomberg Philanthropies works closely with partner organizations and governments in countries where the foundation gives. Its focus on reforming and effectively implementing strong policies ensures that Bloomberg Philanthropies’ efforts will be sustainable and continue to help save and improve lives beyond its support.

About Relationship Coffee Institute
The Relationship Coffee Institute (RCI) is a non-profit public benefit corporation that aims to increase social and economic opportunity for smallholder commodity farmers and their families. RCI joined Bloomberg Philanthropies to bring the innovative Relationship Model to Rwanda. Developed by RCI’s sister organization, Sustainable Harvest® Coffee Importers, this unique model disrupts opaque, commodity-driven systems to increase value throughout the supply chain, fosters greater sustainability, and has a proven track record of demonstrated success with smallholder coffee farmers in Latin America and East Africa.

Media Contact
Chris Ryan
(503) 317-3551


Rwandan women leverage coffee knowledge for business success

By Stasi Baranoff | Sustainable Harvest® Rwanda


Recently, the members of the Twongere Umusaruro cooperative have been spending every day at their newly built coffee washing station in Kayonza, a district in the Eastern Province of Rwanda.


The washing station is not just a processing facility for the women farmers; it’s a symbol of transformation. Last year, their coffee cherries had a different fate: Once harvested by members of the cooperative, they were delivered to a privately owned washing station. The owner paid the expected farm gate price per kilogram of cherries delivered, which according to the commodities market for Rwanda’s 2014 season did not exceed $0.35. Then the cherries were gone. While this income was important to the farmers, the lack of transparency and inability for them to engage further in the coffee value chain limited the potential for business development.

The new washing station gives the women much more ownership: The sun-dried coffee that comes out of the coffee washing station after processing cherries is still controlled by the members of the cooperative. The sale of that sun-dried coffee, whose value is much higher than coffee cherries before processing, is the ultimate income of the cooperative and its members. 


To date, the Twongere Umusaruro cooperative has processed more than 90 tons of ripe, quality coffee cherries grown and harvested by Sustainable Harvest® Rwanda training beneficiaries, and there’s still a month left in this harvest season.

This project is the work of Sustainable Harvest® Rwanda, in partnership with Women for Women International, to improve the livelihoods of low-income women farmers by providing training and market access through the Relationship Coffee Institute, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies (which has a Women’s Economic Development program). Sustainable Harvest® Rwanda has spent the past year working with the Twongere Umusaruro cooperative and individual smallholder farmers in the surrounding area, training them in both coffee agronomy best practices and in business development. (Sustainable Harvest® is also leading a concurrent washing station project at another Rwandan co-op, Nyampinga, in Nyaruguru.)

The training at Twongere Umusaruro has focused on laying the groundwork to  produce specialty-grade coffee, not only by yielding high-quality and high-quantity coffee cherries, but also by effectively processing the cherries. This includes cooperative management, accounting, and structure, as well as best agricultural practices and coffee cupping to detect defects.

This harvest season, it is evident that some of this training—and the cooperative’s organizational skills—are paying off. Twongere Umusaruro is running a business. The organization controls harvesting as well as processing. The processed coffee (including specialty-grade beans—recent cuppings of sample lots have shown scores as high as 91 on the Cup of Excellence scale) will be sold on the domestic and international market, with the cooperative leadership signing a contract with the buyer.

Twongere Umusaruro’s success this season is an indication not only of good practices being implemented, but also of the potential for specialty coffee in Kayonza District. Known for dry weather and banana plantations, Kayonza is not often praised for good coffee. However, a Cup of Excellence-winning micro‐lot from this province has helped to change the pre-existing notions that it wasn’t a good coffee climate. Twongere Umusaruro is continuing to show that the area can, in fact, produce an excellent cup, and ideally in ample volume. After all, the cooperative’s name translates to “increase production” in the local dialect, Kinyarwanda.

Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Verna Eggleston recently visited the cooperative, alongside Rwanda’s Minister of Gender, Oda Gasinzigwa, and the Mayor of Kayonza District, John Mugabo. At the meeting, Twongere Umusaruro’s President Agnes told the group: “We are coffee business women now. We control the money, and we control the quality.”

The washing station is one more step forward in the exciting transformation of these farmers’ lives.

Sustainable Harvest®-Rwanda coffee served at President Obama’s US-Africa Leaders Summit

On August 4-6 President Obama welcomed leaders from across the African continent to Washington DC for the three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the first such event of its kind. The Summit, was the largest event any U.S. President has held with African heads of state and government aimed to strengthen ties between the United States and one of the world’s most dynamic and fastest-growing regions. As part of the Summit, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the U.S. Department of Commerce also co-hosted the first-ever U.S.-Africa Business Forum, a day focused on trade and investment opportunities on the continent for African and American leaders in business and government.

New video from Bloomberg Philanthropies demonstrates impact of Rwanda Project

Bloomberg Philanthropies has been working on women’s economic development in sub-Saharan Africa since 2008 and, to date, more than 100,000 women have been enrolled in Bloomberg Philanthropies-supported training programs. Key program partners include Women for Women, Sustainable Harvest®, and the governments of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Day One, Let’s Talk Coffee® Rwanda

Day one of Let’s Talk Coffee® Rwanda today was inspiring. As the women attendees came from remote farms and communities throughout Rwanda, the power of relationships was made clear. One group that Sustainable Harvest® Rwanda is working with is the Nyampinga coffee cooperative located in Nyangury, outside of Butare at the southern end of the state. When I was in Rwanda in November 2013 I met with these women, who live in an isolated rural area and operate two cooperatively owned plots of land where they grow coffee from approximately 2,500 coffee trees. During my last visit, we were warmly welcomed by nearly the entire cooperative of 70 members, 60 of which are women.

Sustainable Harvest® Rwanda Launches First Let’s Talk Coffee® Rwanda

On February 18 and 19, Sustainable Harvest® Inc., through its nonprofit entity, Relationship Coffee Institute, will launch its Rwanda operation with the first Let’s Talk Coffee Rwanda event, convening in partnership with Women for Women International (WfWI). Sustainable Harvest®’s relationship coffee initiative in Rwanda is funded by a three-year grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies.