Published Saturday , on 22 February 2020, 10:30:00 by Christophe Hitayezu

Issa Nkururnziza describing opportunities for youth in coffee value chain, Thursday in Kigali

The average age of the people producing coffee in Rwanda is 51 as per a census carried out in 2015 by NAEB, which is critically high for a cash crop that attracts more than $68 million per year. Therefore, On Thursday February 20, 2020, the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) in partnership with Agriterra – a Dutch non-government organization – have called on youth to engage in agribusiness, especially coffee subsector as one providing huge opportunities.

Izabayo Benitha, 21, works with Muhondo Coffee Company, she said coffee is not a priority business for youth because of lack of patience. “It takes three years waiting for the first harvesting period, however, young people need quick benefits and there don’t have such patience to wait for the coffee. Though, we need awareness campaign to encourage them, because even if you wait a such long period, you even harvest it for long time, like two years without making new plantations,” she said.

Issa Nkururnziza, the Traditional Commodities Division Manager at NAEB, said people engaged in the coffee farming are old, which is a problem for the future of the subsector. “When the old people are gone and they did not interested their descendants about coffee there will be a problem,” he said.

He said the reasons that limit youth interest in coffee farming or its value chain, are farmers who are not willing to engage their children. Among other reasons, he also cited the mindset of the youth whereby they have not yet understood the opportunities in coffee.

Jasper Spikker, Agriterra’s country representative for Rwanda and Ivory Coast, said he thinks the youth’s limitations are linked to land ownership. “I think the first reason is this; to grow coffee you need land and to have land usually comes to heritage, and you need to invest. To start new plantation, it needs some time to harvest, you have to wait some years, usually is a bit long for youth. If they have some money to invest they choose other businesses. But, there are very talented coffee farmers and agronomists which are young which deserve opportunities. As AGRI TERRA we cannot buy land for youth, that is not why we are here, but we’re here to help cooperatives to think about strategies how they can welcome the youth to join Agriculture,” he said.

Jasper Spikker speaking to journalists on Agriterra’s interventions in Rwanda’s coffee production

Jasper emphasizes that AGRI TERRA will continue helping farmers in cooperatives and businesses they are involved in. “In Rwanda, more than 70% on the people are active in Agriculture, we cannot forget about these people, there are a lot of people that love to do agriculture but don’t have the opportunity, and we think through cooperatives, we can create opportunities,” he said.

According to NAEB’s figures, over 21,000 tonnes of green coffee were exported last year and generating over $68 million (about Rwf62 billion) in revenues, while 26,000 tonnes of green coffee are expected to be exported this year for $80 million (about Rwf73 billion).