Peach, tangerine, roasted hazelnut, smooth buttery body
187km south-west of Kigali city, through the foothills and rice fields and into the Land of a Thousand Hills is the Bwenda washing station. Just north-west of Butare in the Kbumbwe sector, Bwenda occupies a small area of between 2-3 ha. Established by RTC in 2019, Bwenda is named after the cell of land it’s on. It’s manager, Eric, resides in nearby Huwe and has been the manager since RTC took ownership. Thanks to the training the farmers have received in financial management (which is just one aspect of RTC’s training) Eric is content in knowing that they have been provided the opportunity to make savings, thus ensuring some longer-term stability and financial independence.
The station employs 3 people full-time, including Eric, with the addition of providing seasonal work for around 60 casual workers during the harvest season. Women account for around 85% of the labour force at Bwenda, and we asked if this was because the work required less physical labour than other roles on the station Eric replied “No, they are just better at it than the men”.
In 2022 1600 smallholder farmers local to Bwenda were contributing cherry to the station. Farm sizes ranged from just 100 trees to 7000 trees (around 3 hectares), and the farms lay between 0.5km to 4km away. Most farmers are between the ages of 30-55/60 with around 25% being either elderly or under 25. To enable farmers to contribute cherry despite access to the station from farms or issues of mobility, the site provides collection points and site collectors who gather cherry from across 20 locations. Collectors will inspect and weigh deliveries of cherry and pay the farmers straight away. Additionally, the station provides farmers with organic EM2 compost which consists of recycled cherry pulp with some animal manure. All 1600 farmers using Bwenda have completed or are current participants in the Agribusiness Training Program.