Partner Profile: Burundi Agribusiness Project

One of our partners here at the Buhorwa Washing Station is the Burundi Agribusiness Project (BAP).  Projects like this make me actually happy to pay tax on my hard earned income and our monthly payroll to the US government.  You see, BAP is a USAID-funded project.  It is administered by Development Assistance International (DAI) and Michingan State University’s Institute for International Agriculture.  MSU’s Anne Ottoway initially introduced us to BAP and she is awesome.  If you’re at SCAA in Houston this year make sure to find Anne and pick her brain.

We first visited Burundi about a year and a half ago, and we were excited to start a partnership with BAP, as their staff seemed to efficiently understand and work within the intersecting fields of coffee (industry /trade/quality improvement, etc) and development (poverty reduction, economic development, gender equality, etc).  As a company based in the US without full time staff located at origin, it is critical that we at Crop to Cup work with quality partners such as BAP.  We take great care to build and maintain these relationships, and to ensure that we connect our coffee’s farmers to the benefits of the projects carried out by BAP’s expert employees.

Our prior excitement was validated this year, when we arrived at the Buhorwa Washing Station to see a brand new, large-scale water treatment system and a shiny new set of latrines.  BAP contributed half of the funding required, while Sogestal Kayanza (the owners of washing station) contributed the other half.

The previous employee latrine was a  mud hut over a [not very deep] hole, and as you can see in the photos below, the new construction is a full block, with 4 latrines for the men and 4 for the women, with each latrine fully enclosed.  In addition there is a handwashing station (via rainwater off the latrine block roof).  The closest latrines of comparable quality and hygiene are about 45 minutes walk away, so  – seeing that over 2,000 local farmers visit the Buhorwa washing station to deliver their coffee – this is a major improvement for the community.

The new water treatment system is equally impressive.  Water effluent is perhaps a coffee washing station’s most critical environmental and health risk, since the pulping and fermentation process greatly increases water acidity and throws off the pH balance.  Untreated water from coffee washing stations affect not only local soils and plants who strain to drink its overly acidic and oxygen-depleted waters, but also the humans and livestock who live off the river and groundwater downstream.

The treatment system works through a series of 5 open  tanks, some of which are are lined with sand or pebbles.  The sand and pebbles naturally collect most of the gunk that needs to be filtered out of the water, then the large bed of pennisetum grass below acts as a final filter.  The grasses’ root systems soak up the water and process everything which isn’t H20, thus releasing clean water back into the valley’s water table.  More on the water treatment project here. 

Both of these projects use simple technology (though still large and costly undertakings) to make major improvements in the Buhorwa coffee growing community.

In addition to these two site improvement projects, BAP also employs an army of field-based agronomists.  We have been lucky enough to work with Jacqueline, who is in charge of community sensitization for the Bukeye region.  Much of the work at this time of the year involves trainings to assist small scale farmers to grow more and better quality coffee, and thus increase annual incomes.  Additional trainings by Jacqueline and her colleagues tackle gender equality, crop diversification, animal husbandry and farmer organization.  Since Crop to Cup’s founding we’ve always treated coffee and poverty as one in the same, which is why we’re so pumped to be working with a like-minded partner like BAP.

If you’re at the SCAA conference in Houston, make sure to seek out Crop to Cup staff (Jake and Neil) and have them introduce you to BAP folks, including Ben Lentz and Emile Kamwenubusa.  They are truly experts in development and coffee quality and could tell you heaps more about the BAP project and espouse on the greatness of all the Burundi coffee there is to offer!

A few photos of training, water treatment and the new latrines are below, and for more images and descriptions check out our photostream here.

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