Finance: Cafedirect helps Rwanda farmers

The fair trade company Cafedirect is to help coffee growers in Rwanda gain access to new international markets and connect directly with buyers under a new scheme unveiled on Social Enterprise Day last week.

The partnership, which is endorsed by third sector minister Ed Miliband, aims to help Rwanda's estimated 400,000 coffee farmers to rebuild the export market in the aftermath of the 1994 civil war and attempted genocide.

A number of individual growers formed collectives in the late 1990s in an attempt to revive their business. Most recently, Cafedirect's development partner in coffee, Twin Trading, has helped six farming groups to set up Misozi, a collaborative export organisation.

"We want to make a practical difference on the trade side in a country that has seen so much bloodshed and destruction," said Helen Ireland, corporate communications manager at Cafedirect. "Before the genocide, coffee was a really big part of the economy. We felt there was an opportunity to start that up again."

Cafedirect's investment programme will focus on bringing growers' organisations together and providing training so that farmers have a better understanding of what each market wants.

"We will help growers form a viable business that enables them to be self-sufficient and achieve independence," Ireland said.

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