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Seriously good coffee from Rwanda

Coffee project by students of the Tilburg University Outreaching Honors Program

Tilburg Bèkske imports and sells coffee from Rwanda, the profits of which flow back directly to the women who produce the coffee. These women and girls have survived the sexual violence during the genocide in Rwanda. The coffee project was initiated by students from the Outreaching Honors program, supervised by Professor Ianika Tzankova (Private Law) and Dr. Anne-Marie de Brouwer (Intervict). 

The not-for-profit project is a good illustration of Tilburg University's education profile, says Ianika Tzankova, which aims at inspiring students to make a difference and advance society by using the power of knowledge, skills, and character. In this projects the students 'learned by doing' about social entrepreneurship, team building, marketing, diversity, poverty reduction -- and criminal law.

The coffee project was initiated by the 'Mukoweze' Foundation (‘empower him/her’, ‘move on’) chaired by Dr. Anne-Marie de Brouwer. Tilburg University students Heleen Ballemans, Laurynas Baltrusaistis, Tamara Houweling and Thijs van Vliet were supervised by Dr. Anne-Marie de Brouwer and Luan Vercruysse from the coffee project. 

Knowledge, skills, character

From the internship report by the students:

“The internship was an opportunity if a lifetime. Not only did it allow us to develop our social and inquisitive skills, to gain a lot of practical insights into the production process of coffee, also it shaped our characters, strengthening our intrinsic motivation to an extent we could have never imagined. (…) This internship has helped is to see that we do have the ability to make our lives meaningful. (…) We retrieved a lot of answers to our pressing questions about the impact of Bèkske, the sustainability component and the overall social and cultural context. (…) The internship offered us an opportunity to go from science to practice, entrepreneurship with falling and getting up. (…) An internship like this is a whole different method of learning than from a book. It is a true character building experience. We have further developed our growth mindset, and understanding of society.”

Poverty reduction

Laurynas was willing to research the impact of the microloans and materials provided by Mukomeze on the financial situation of the women involved. “While following a course Development Economics, I have been exposed to many ideas about how individuals at risk or in poverty could be assisted to escape the poverty trap. Since the people are being helped by Bèkske are in such situation, the project provided a perfect opportunity to see realities of life in poverty and distress, what kind of interventions are actually helpful and what the recipients care about.”

Psychological mechanisms

Tamara: “My interest in Rwanda was sparked by a course about the laws of war and criminal tribunals. We looked into psychological mechanisms that can turn ordinary citizens into murderers, trying to explain the mass involvement in Rwanda.”

Diversity

Heleen: “My course Discovering Diversity encouraged me to think about socially derived categories of people, like ethnicity and the effects such distinctions have. I have noticed many parallels between the theory we covered and discriminatory policy applied in Rwanda.” 

Social entrepreneurship

Thijs:Learning about great examples of social entrepreneurship is just not the same as experiencing it first hand through an internship, particularly when it is with an organization as impactful and valuable as Bèkske provided to be.”

Strong coffee for strong women

This coffee not only tastes good, it also does good: as much as 52% of the proceeds go back to local sources, including the women, thanks to Solace Ministries, the local partner. On average, only 12% of the proceeds of coffee production goes back to the local population. Het Bèkske does more: 25% of the profits go directly to one of the women depicted on the pouches. As a result, she will directly receive money for her own livelihood, including the education of her children. 

Why support Het Bèkske?

  • Buy coffee produced by the most fantastic and resilient Rwandese women
  • Contribute to the empowerment of women and girls
  • Stimulate gender equality
  • Help people to put an end to poverty
  • Support local entrepreneurship
  • Stimulate economic independence
  • Foster inclusive and sustainable economic growth
  • Small-scale artisanal production

500 kilos to Tilburg

The aim of the coffee project was to import 500 kilos of coffee from Rwanda as early as in 2018, which aim was achieved. Entrepreneurs and consumers in the Netherlands, starting in Tilburg, are supplied with this coffee for sales purposes. As a result, approximately 80 female entrepreneurs will have the prospect of a decent future. Approximately 115 people, mainly women, are directly supported by this project. Indirectly, some 1,200 people are reached, including the children of the Rwandese women.

The coffee belt

The coffee beans grow in the south of Rwanda, in the center of the region known as the coffee belt. Factors that influence the quality of the coffee are altitude, temperature, and humidity. Coffee from Rwanda is one of the better export products with the highest quality of Arabica beans, directly from the plantation and roasted to order in Vught. This ensures that the aromas are retained for the optimal taste. 25% of coffee drinkers notice the difference in taste and favor quality coffees. And that number is growing.

Roasting in Vught

The Arabica coffee berries grow at altitudes of 1,200 meters and higher. They are carefully hand-picked, washed, and dried and the parchment is shelled off. Only the ripe, red berries grow into the best coffee beans. These green beans are then tested for smell, aroma, and flavor, following which they are shipped in 60-kilo bags to Vught for roasting.

The large majority of coffees consist of mixtures of different types of beans, sometimes even beans from different countries. Het Bèkske, however, respects the nature of the coffee beans: its coffee consists of 100% Arabica beans. As with wine, the taste of coffee differs from one region to the next, as does the quality. Coffee grown at higher altitudes, the Arabica, is more complex in taste. Processing it takes more time and therefore this coffee is also more expensive. Simpler coffee, the Robusta, is grown at lower altitudes, and has a different price tag.

Factsheet Tilburgs Bèkske*

  • Website: www.rwandesekoffie.com
  • Country: Rwanda (100%!)
  • Producer: Nyamurinda Coffee Growers
  • Region: Nyamurinda, Western Rwanda
  • Altitude: 1600 m
  • Processing method: washed
  • Harvest: Fall 2017
  • Flavor profile: balanced, soft, full-bodied taste and wonderful finish. Lively with a medium body, nevertheless intense and full of flavor.
  • Price: Bèkske filter coffee, 500 gr, € 9,95; beans, 500 gr, € 9,95

The project was generated by the Mukomeze Foundation

* not to be confused with “Het Tilburgs Benkske” (little bench)


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