Saturday, May 28, 2016

54. Ejo Heza Women Experiment to Grow Margins

May 26, 2016
Ejo Heza representatives L to R: Bernadette, cell leader; Therese, president; Olive, coop advisor.
On May 26 I had the opportunity to make an interesting visit to the women's cooperative, Ejo Heza, which is part of KOPAKAMA in Rwanda's Rutsiro district, Western Province. They are running an experiment on new ways to mulch and weed. For mulching, they are doing "targeted mulching" and for weeding, they are experimenting with cutting the weeds and leaving the weed cuttings on the ground instead of uprooting weeds and carrying them away.

These are two "time-saving" ways of doing mulching and weeding. The women report they had higher profits from coffee in 2015 after they started these methods in their experimental field in January 2015. They have a "control" field next to their experimental field and they are monitoring how well the "targeted mulch + weeds-left-on-the-ground" methods are working.

Plot of experimental trees for the women's cooperate Ejo Heza.

Targeted mulching and "easy" weeding experiment.

A row of trees in experimental field.

Agronomist Gervais KAYITARE stands between two plots - the control (L) and the experiment (R).

Monday, May 23, 2016

53. Kick-off at KOPAKAMA - Lean at Origin

May 23, 2016
Hands-on practice of lean principles using a simulation.
Thanks to a grant from Trademark East Africa, TWIN Trading has been able initiate the launch of "Lean at Origin" training for coffee washing stations in Rwanda. TWIN selected Artisan Coffee Group to bring this training to two cooperatives in Rwanda's Western Province. Because of logistics, a lead cooperative, KOPAKAMA, was selected and a nearby cooperative, KOPAKAKI, was selected to send representatives to the training sessions. The two-day leadership training has just completed and two more weeks of 2-day sessions are planned.

The core idea of "Lean at Origin" is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. Simply stated, "lean" means creating more value for customers with fewer resources by developing a culture of metrics and focus on flow efficiency. Converting an organization to this kind of mindset is usually a major culture change, whether it's happening in central Ohio in the U.S., or in the mountains of Rwanda, and thus it takes 2 - 3 years, not days, to implement.

This kick-off training unites KOPAKAMA and KOPAKAKI cooperative board members, coffee washing station staff and coffee farmers, large and small as they begin their "Journey to World Class". The specific objective of the 2-day leadership training was to give management of the cooperative a solid understanding of lean objectives including the ability to describe the "why" for their cooperative and at least three lean tools.

Lean at Origin was developed and created by Artisan Coffee Group because Ruth Ann Church, Artisan's president, believes the principles of lean can have an important impact on sustainability of the coffee supply chain in this age of climate change, price volatility and concern about the cost of quality. "As I've visited over a dozen washing stations in Rwanda, I've seen examples of smart improvements to efficiency and I've seen a lot of waste," comments Church. "Through Lean at Origin training, we should be able to minimize waste in ways that translate into profits for washing stations and farmers -- because the survival of both are inextricably linked."

After the two-day training session, trainees had the opportunity to share their insights on ways to save money and improve productivity. Leonidas NDORAHIMANA, Secretary of KOPAKAMA, said that there were different wastes occurring in transportation, labor resources, organization of items and general time management, which decreases their profit. With the new model of minimizing wastes they are going to make improvements by targeting customer needs more carefully in order to maximize profit.

[Contributing author: Eric Nshimiyimana]

Ruth leads an exercise for "seeing waste."

Giving a report from a small group discussion.
Lean at Origin - Leadership Training - May 19 & 20, 2016

Dashboard of metrics created to track farmer interests, productivity and quality.
6S group exercise - identifying waste.
Cherry collectors bringing in cherry around 7pm.
Coffee cherries delivered in the morning.

Break time.

The view at KOPAKAMA is awesome!


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

52. Cost of Production and Farmer Incentives - Rountables 1 and 2

May 13 and 17, 2016
Dr. Rukazambuga presents data to the 5th roundtable.
Last Friday and yesterday the "Roundtable Series" of the Africa Great Lakes Coffee program got started, initiating the second stage of the project's work plan on policy. These are the first two in a series of five roundtables being held with Rwanda's coffee industry stakeholders. Topics are as follows:
  • Roundtable 1: Farmer Premiums
  • Roundtable 2: Farmer Investments in Coffee
  • Roundtable 3: Pre-Finance for Farmers
  • Roundtable 4: Fully-Washed Channel Growth
  • Roundtable 5: Access to Inputs
Below is the first of a series of intriguing slides showing never-seen-before data on cost-of-production (COP) for Rwanda's smallholder coffee farmers:
The figures above show the expected decline in COP as the number of trees increases. Economies of scale exist in coffee like other crops and industries. What is helpful, and new, is to see a measure of what the difference is between the lowest and highest, and also where the mean falls. At 177 Rwf/KG (i.e. $.23/kg or $.11/lb) the mean COP is 27 Rwf above the floor cherry price (of 120 Rwf/kg cherry) in Rwanda today. One notes that even the large farmers  in this sample are probably not making a profit, or if there is one, it is very slim at a price of 120 Rwf/kg cherry. Thus the next slide is not surprising:
In this slide, the prices on the X axis are hypothetical and the gross margin is calculated using the stratification of costs of production that we have in our sample from 1024 farmers. Here we can see that at the cherry floor price of 170 that existed during the 2015 season, over 1/3 of Rwanda's coffee farmers made a loss on coffee.

Future blogs will dig deeper into this topic and look at productivity measures.

The roundtables each include a different set of selectively invited individuals, usually about 10 - 12, from government, private industry, cooperatives and relevant research groups. All are being held at the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR) in Kigali, one of the Rwandan partners on the project.

The format of the roundtables is to first present to the participants the "fresh off the press" analysis and findings from the baseline survey of 1024 coffee producers' households conducted Jan - Mar 2016. Then, after a coffee/tea break, the participants are invited to ask questions and discuss the findings with Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI) guiding the conversation and recording comments with flipcharts and typed notes.

Grace of AgroPy and Dr. Dan Clay

Kathryn Bowman of GKI moderated the discussion.