Please join us in thanking Aime Gahizis and the smallholder coffee producers of Karongi as we mark ten years of working with the delicious coffee from Gitesi washing station.
The Producer & Farm
Aime is always hospitable and positive when we visit Rwanda. We stay in close contact to hear how things are going at the washing station. As well as buying and processing coffee cherries grown by the smallholder farmers in the surrounding hillsides, the Gahizis family also tend to their own small farm. They have a wormery which they use to make an organic fertiliser spray, which also helps to limit the spread of leaf rust. Every year they are buying more land and planting more coffee, with over 20,000 trees now producing on their own farm. Their mature trees produce an average of 5kg fruit per year but can produce upwards of 20kg.
Cows kept at the station provide milk and fertiliser for their own trees, and through Aime’s social work they donate dozens of cows each year to farmers in the local area, as well as spray pumps for fertiliser. They also donate seedlings from their nursery of over 10,000 plants to neighbouring farmers and run workshops to teach them about tending to other food crops as well as coffee.
The Washing Station
The water used for producing washed coffees comes from a natural spring. After being used for processing the coffee it becomes full of particulates and enzymes, needing to be filtered before being reintroduced into the local water table. At Gitesi they collect water from the washing channels as well as run off from the mounds of coffee pulp (which breaks down to provide more compost for their trees) and first hold it in a tank. The mucilage settles and is separated off to be added to organic fertiliser whilst the water passes through lime and EM (effective microorganisms). Subsequent stages use molasses, holding tanks, charcoal and fine gravel to filter the water before it finally passes through a bed of vetiver reeds, re-oxygenating it. This filtration system is highly advanced and is held up as an exemplary model for other washing stations to work towards.
Last year they have built new washing and grading channels at the station as part of their renovations. Typically they will process around 80% of their coffee volumes as washed coffee, with 20% naturals being done on a case by case basis for certain clients.
Aime sees the work at Gitesi as much more than simple crop husbandry and coffee production, doing amazing work within the neighbouring community. We asked him for a message that we could pass along to the people drinking coffee from Gitesi and he replied with the following, that we haven’t the heart to shorten:
“The Gitesi Sector is the land of our grandfathers, it’s where even my father was born. But as you know, because of Rwandan history we grew up outside our country, and we came back in 1994 after the genocide and liberation war. Upon our return we have found in our land no one among our family members, all of them were killed in the genocide. We are now living and working with those who killed (or their children) our relatives. What motivates us is the reconciliation between the survivors of genocide of those who participated in genocide in our sector, now we are working together at the washing station, sharing everything in peace. Our plan is to continue changing the lives of our people at Gitesi both socially and economically.”
In light of out ten-year anniversary working with Gitesi, Aime has also shared this message with us:
“This is a tenth year! It's a special year to celebrate our partnership as farmers, producer, buyer and customers. This celebration represents success and achievement to all of us. We value your trust and confidence in us and sincerely appreciate you! We appreciate also all your support since year one.
As you continue increasing the quantity of coffee you drink, make sure that you are valuing the efforts and sacrifice of our farmers. At the same time, you are contributing in increasing their income, and so their wellbeing.”
Karongi, Western Province, Rwanda
Sticky date cake & candied orange notes make for a sweet, comforting cup. Aromas of cardamom, violets & caramelised sugars add layers of complexity.