The Western Province is one of five created in 2006 as part of a decentralization programme throughout the country. Karongi lies in the midst of the province, running from the eastern boundary with Kigali City, and western boundary of Lake Kivu, one of three lakes known to experience limnic eruptions due to the build-up of dissolved gasses within. There are two wet and dry seasons in the country, with good quality coffee available over a large harvest season, though the recent changes in rainfall patterns caused by climate change have led to flooding and landslides, causing the closure of roads and destruction of bridges.
On the eastern shores of Lake Kivu lies the city of Kabuye, and close to this, the two washing stations under the management of Kopakaki Dutegure cooperative. Started in 2005 when two small coffee farmer associations came together, they invested in a wet mill in 2007 and have carried on growing to 990 members now. They have sought to create and maintain gender equality throughout their chain as well as being Fairtrade and Rainforest certified and count 585 female producers in their number. Joining with Misozi, an umbrella cooperative of nine producer co-ops formed in order to process, package and provide export services, the additional premiums for quality has also meant farmers have gained access to electricity and water in the area, as well as paying for health insurance and school fees. The cooperative has been able to assist people with property damage sustained with severe weather conditions.
Coffee grown by the Co-op is mainly from the Kivu belt in the Karongi District, with around 20% cultivated high in the hills. Cherries are picked ripe on the many small holder farms before being transported to the washing station, where it goes through a handsorting on covered tables to hide from the effects of the sun. After an initial washing and pulping, the beans are subject to a 24-hour double fermentation process involving ‘dry’ fermentation of 24 hours followed by a wet fermentation for 24 hours. Beans are then soaked in the Kenyan style for 6-12 hours before being dried on raised beds under the sun. Drymilling is currently provided at NAEB (National Agricultural Export Development Board) in Kigali though Kopakaki are busy building their own drymill facility, that is to be completed very soon.
With a countrywide crop predominantly formed of Bourbon, this can be broken down further to find BM139 and BM71 as the common plantings in the country. Introduced from the collection of Mayaguez in Puerto Rico to the germplasm collection in Mulungu, and from there to Rwanda in the early 1950’s, the varietal has played an important part in new selections and releases.