MEET OUR FARMERS
Our Meet Our Farmers series provides a glimpse into the history, legacy and dedication of the farming families whom we partner with. When you purchase San Francisco Bay Coffee, you are joining our efforts to improve the lives of our farmers and those in their communities around the world.
January 1, 2022
Constance Mukampamije, Rwanda
Constance Mukampamije: Huye District, Kigoma Sector, Rwanda
Deep in Rwanda’s Southern Province you’ll find the Huye district, one of eight districts in the region, and one of 30 districts in the country. Rwanda’s “second city” of Butare is located here, 50 miles southwest of Rwanda’s capital Kigali. It’s here in the high hills of the Kigoma sector that Constance Mukampamije farms her coffee.
Constance began working on her parents’ coffee farm as a child of six years old, weeding, mulching, picking cherries, sorting out pulp, transporting cherries to local de-pulping facilities and then bringing coffee parchment to the market. She continued farming with her family through her elementary and high school years. After she graduated, she married a coffee farmer who had a 400-tree farm of his own.
The two of them worked his farm for decades, building a house on the land, raising three children, and putting them through school and university all on the income the coffee farm provided. When her husband passed, Constance took over the business for herself, planting close to 200 more trees. And now at 61, with all her children grown and graduated and creating families of their own, Constance has taken the place of her parents, with her children returning to help on her farm – weeding, mulching, pruning, fertilizing, picking cherries, de-pulping and transporting coffee cherries to the washing station.
Constance’s farm is located at an elevation of over a mile towards the sky, tucked up in the hills of the Kigoma sector. Here she works a little over an acre of perfect, sandy soil filled with close to 600 productive coffee trees. She farms a bourbon arabica coffee bean varietal here, like most of the 400,000 other smallholder producers in Rwanda. Her farm is bordered by the San Francisco Bay Coffee Kigoma farm where she learns best practices to incorporate into her growing process.
The different growing seasons have different staffing needs on her coffee farm. Constance employs two permanent workers year-round, and that’s the size of her operations now during the cherry-growing stage. But she also hires an extra worker to apply insecticides, two workers to prune, three workers to fertilize, 20 or more workers when she needs weeding done, 80 workers when it’s time to pick the cherries, and more than 100 workers to mulch.
San Francisco Bay Coffee has a washing station nearby, and Constance is grateful for the training she receives there. The yield from her farm has been consistently growing since she was able to plant coffee seedlings prepared by San Francisco Bay Coffee which are resistant to coffee leaf rust. With the help of San Francisco Bay Coffee, Constance’s production has increased from 1,500kg to 1,900kg. Her relationship with San Francisco Bay Coffee provides her with an income that allows her to hire workers and see to the needs of her farm and her family.
Coffee cherry washing station located in Rwanda.
With the help of San Francisco Bay Coffee, Constance’s production has increased from 1,500kg to 1,900kg.
Through her relationship with San Francisco Bay Coffee, she has learned the strongest ways to apply fertilizer and insecticides that help to control the antestia bug. This variegated coffee bug, found specifically in African coffee-growing regions, feeds on the flowers, berries and growing tips of the coffee plants. They give the coffee beans a “potato taste,” which is believed to be caused by bacteria entering through the perforations the bugs make. There are several other challenges facing the coffee industry in Constance’s region: price fluctuations for coffee cherries, climate change, land scarcity for farm expansions, workforce issues and delays in fertilizer and insecticide applications from farm to farm. When these applications are delayed, there’s no effective way to keep control of the pests since the farms are so close to each other.
Still, Constance has high hopes for her farm’s future. She’s grateful for the help from San Francisco Bay Coffee Company: their donation of stronger plants, the trainings they provide to area farmers, the visits they make to local coffee growers to help strategize their operations, and their purchase of the coffee grown on farms like Constance’s. With the profits she makes from increased productivity, she looks forward to the opportunity to buy more land and plant more seedlings, contributing to the economy of her region and creating a strong legacy for her family.