Region: Kamonyi District, Southern Province
Owner: Epiphanie Mukashyaka
Varietal(s): 100% Bourbon
Processing method: Natural
Elevation: 1,550 to 1,700 masl
Buf Café was founded in 2003 by Epiphanie Mukashyaka, a dynamic businesswoman and a source of inspiration to countless other female entrepreneurs in Rwanda’s coffee sector and beyond. Buf is now managed by Epiphanie and her son, Samuel Muhirwa, who takes an active role in running and expanding the business. The title ‘Buf’ derives from ‘Bufundu’, the former name of the region in which its washing stations are located.
Epiphanie, who was born in 1959, was widowed during the 1994 genocide-which claimed over 800,000 lives injust 3 months-but chose not to leave her family’s small coffee farm. Instead she set about rebuilding and developing her business and with it the local community. She started Buf Café in 2003, when she established Remera washing station (her first) with a loan from the Rwandan Development Bank and the assistance of the USAID-financed PEARL project. This transformational programme was aimed at switching the focus in the Rwandan coffee sector from a historic emphasis on quantity to one of quality-and so opening up Rwanda to the far higher-earning specialty coffee market. The programme and its successor, SPREAD, have been invaluable in helping Rwanda’s small-scale coffee farmers to rebuild their production in the wake of the devastating 1994 genocide and the 1990s world coffee crash.
Buf Café now owns four coffee washing stations–Remera, Nyarusiza, Umurage and the newest Ubumwe. The company, which was serving fewer than 500 farmers in 2003, is now procuring coffee cherries from almost 7,500 smallholder farmers in the Southern province of Rwanda, among them 1,069 are registered members.
The majority of the small farmers in the area have an average of only 300 coffee trees (less than a quarter of a hectare) and use some of their land to cultivate other crops such as maize and beans to feed themselves and their families.