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Thanksgiving Coffee Aide Visits Co-op

October 2006

Thanksgiving Coffee Aide Visits Dakunde Kawa Cooperative

Co-op employees sort parchment coffee before millingDraped like a patchwork quilt over a steep winding ridge, the two thousand farms of the Dakunde Kawa Cooperative stretch over 10 kilometers of meandering hilltops and slopes. In all my years working with coffee farmers, I've never seen farms this small, or farmers so grateful for their cooperative's efforts.
The community of Musasa, home to the Dakunde Kawa Cooperative, was devastated by the genocide in 1994. And like many other rural communities in Rwanda, coffee is the sole cash crop. Now just twelve years after the genocide, over two thousand farmers-both Hutu and Tutsi-are working together to bring peace and prosperity to the Land of a Thousand Hills.
Augustine Rebagisha, a Dakunde Kawa Cooperative memberThanksgiving Coffee's President, Joan Katzeff, traveled to Rwanda in 2003 and was profoundly moved by both seeing the mountain gorillas and meeting members of some of the coffee cooperatives.
Her trip inspired the creation of Gorilla Fund Coffee, in partnership with the Dakunde Kawa Cooperative and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, in order to use Rwandan coffee to raise funds for mountain gorilla preservation and to improve the quality of life for the people of Rwanda. Since then, we've bought the cooperative's entire annual crop at fair trade prices.
My recent visit provided an opportunity to renew commitments, celebrate accomplishments, and plan another year of business.
My host in Musasa was Anastase Minani, the cooperative's director. During our first day together, as we sat in his living room, enjoying a delicious lunch of goat brochettes and boiled potatoes, Minani explained the cooperative's accomplishments.
“In three years of working with you we've done many things. We have a new coffee washing station, and we've built our headquarters and another micro-washing station. We've built the canteen and community center, and we've purchased land for 1,000 coffee trees to provide income for the cooperative.”
I asked him what this meant in the lives of his members.
“We also give money to the members of the cooperative for scholarships; this means that now there are no children in our community missing school. The people can pay for their hospital bills.”
He paused again, and I waited for him to continue. He summed up his answer powerfully: “We feel hopeful because in just three years our business has grown and this has meant many good things in people's lives.”
We spent the rest of that day visiting farmers, one of whom echoed Minani's words poignantly. Standing outside of her home, surrounded by her family, Augustine Rebagisha explained “The cooperative is important for us because I have three children in secondary school-they are orphans from the genocide. We are farmers, and coffee is the crop that we use to raise the money for school tuition.”
Yes, I thought to myself, that's why we do this work. We're a part of a partnership that's bringing peace and prosperity to Rwanda, to these amazing people. This is the true story of our work; you can see it in her face, you can hear it in her words and you can taste it in the sweetness of Augustine's coffee.
Thanksgiving Coffee Company donates $2 from the sale of every of bag to DFGFI to support gorilla conservation. Since 2003, Thanksgiving Coffee has raised $23,000 for DFGFI.

By Ben Corey-Moran, Thanksgiving Coffee's Aide to Coffee Development