Simon Rurihafi (pictured right) is a coffee farmer who owns 350 trees—but he almost gave up on farming them.
In Burundi, the hurdles facing coffee farmers like Simon are many: The labor is demanding, farming techniques and expectations for bean quality have shifted in recent years, and there are gaps in the global supply and demand chains, making it difficult for smallholder farmers to connect with buyers at competitive prices. Simon recalls, “I thought of abandoning coffee in the past because of these challenges!”
On top of this, Burundian farmers have very few options to access financial services or training to update their farming practices, purchase additional land, plant more trees, or connect with buyers.
As a result, farmers have felt stuck, alone, and without options.
The potential is enormous.
Burundi is one of only a handful of locations around the world with the climate and soil composition needed to grow coffee. With 90 percent of Burundians engaging in some form of agriculture, coffee represents $44 million worth of exports—about 20% of the country’s annual exports. And the global demand for quality beans is ever on the rise.
To address the gap between the current reality and the potential for growth, Turame Community Finance, HOPE International’s microfinance institution in Burundi, launched an innovative loan to equip coffee farmers with the financial tools they need to invest in their coffee farming.
A new format to a traditional model
In December 2021, more than 700 farmers signed up to receive their first loans from Turame. Unlike traditional group loans that rely on individuals meeting regularly to make repayments, these loans are designed so that coffee farmers don’t fully repay until they’ve sold their coffee cherries to the coffee washing stations in April or May.
Still, wanting to invest holistically in farmers, Turame facilitates regular group meetings where individuals receive training on farming best practices, study the Bible, and encourage each other through prayer. (See what a typical Burundian growing season looks like here!)
To ensure that farmers would have a committed buyer for their crops, Turame partnered with Long Miles Coffee Project. Long Miles offers agricultural assistance and training to Burundian farmers looking to produce high-quality beans—and they pay a competitive premium for those beans at harvest time.
The impact so far
A local government official recently met with Turame leadership and let them know that they’re the only financial institution in Burundi investing in coffee farmers.
Just months into this new initiative, Turame staff members say they’re seeing excitement from farmers. Today, Simon, the coffee farmer who almost had to find a new profession, says, “Being able to obtain a loan from Turame because of coffee is motivating and shows that we [coffee farmers] are not alone in this. It makes us love this crop!”
To see where you can find coffee roasters stocking coffee beans from Burundi near you, visit Long Miles Coffee Project.
Featured photo: Marguerite Bucumi, a coffee farmer and savings group member in Burundi