43 YEARS OF COFFEE FARMING
We are a family of nine and have worked together with our parents to keep our family legacy in coffee farming and trading. Currently, Valentin Kimenyi, in the middle, is the general manager of Gasharu Coffee. Utilizing his expertise in agriculture and business, he has transformed our approach to coffee farming and processing through innovation and environmentally friendly practices.
The story of Gasharu Coffee starts back in 1973 with a story of a 14 years old boy, Celestin Rumenerangabo, raised by a poor single mum who was internally displaced after the death of her husband during the 1959 uprising that led to the groups of Hutus to launch attacks on the Tutsis. After three years of primary school, due to the mother’s economic hardship, he decided to take a three-day walk trip from Nyamasheke (South-West of Rwanda) to Kigali, the capital.
The 14-year-old boy worked as a house made for a loving family in Kigali (precisely Kicukiro) for three years. In 1976, despite being requested by the host family that they wanted to adopt him as a member of the family, he decided to collect all of his savings for the three years and head back to the village to support his single mother who was living alone.
Arrived back to the village, he used most of his savings for the last three years to buy his first land, where he planted his first 380 coffee trees plantation and the remaining to start coffee trading locally.
As he was getting started, his mother helped him to take care of the land and he was able to explore more aspects of the coffee as he started working with the local brokers.
From 1978, as he got started with local coffee collection and trading there were no coffee washing stations. Local people would sell coffee cherries or parchments by cups locally known as “Mironko” or by the kilogram.
It was assumed that one “Mironko Cup” is equivalent to “one Kilogram” when the scale was not available. He would buy either cherries or parchments and resell them to local brokers once he has collected a reasonable amount ranging from a few bags to a truck. In those instances where he had bought cherries, he would add them together with the cherries from his own land and depulp these with a Hand-crank Machine.
From 1978 to 1983, he expanded his local business and established several local partnerships with coffee farmers. The year 1983 was a turning point for the grown-up boy, he got married to Marie Goretti, who was a 22 years-old teacher.
With two women in the house, his wife and his mother, the coffee business became truly a family business, it established more partnerships with coffee farmers, established new farms and because of Marie’s teaching background, the business started to support schooling for children from coffee farming families working with the family.
From 1978 to 1994, when the Tutsi Genocide occurred, the business had grown remarkably, it had distributed nearly 7 hand-crank machines since they were not readily accessible nor easily affordable and had established more than 14 coffee collection sites in partnership with other local farmers and provided them with coffee scales for accuracy as they measured the coffee cherries and parchments.