I’ve been invited to represent Five Senses at a short IWCA (International Women’s Coffee Alliance) workshop in Burundi, East Africa. Not only was I representing Five Senses as a roaster, but I have the honour of representing women in coffee. The Burundi chapter of IWCA, an association where women collaborate with peers to establish good growing and production practices, signed their charter only one year ago. I am joined at the workshop by a fellow roaster from Korea, a lab and development specialist from India, representatives from USAID stationed in Burundi, and numerous female growers, processors and marketers, just to name a few.
The first day consisted of a lot of presentations and discussions. Various topics included the importance of meticulous picking and processing, cupping as an invaluable tool, how roasters choose what green beans to buy, how sustainable direct relationships are formed, the importance of education for children in coffee, and a bit of exposure to the resources available to the women of IWCA Burundi.
After the conclusion of the presentations, roundtable discussions took place and the members of IWCA Burundi wasted no time in establishing their initiatives. For a country with growing conditions that rival Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia, Burundi has a lot to be excited about. These women mean business and are eager to learn. They are intelligent and ambitious, and until recently, the Burundian government had control over all aspects of the country’s coffee. As the country’s industry begins the shift begins toward privatisation, it is clear that these women intend to solidify Burundi as a spot on the map of speciality coffee exporters.
Day two of the trip involved visiting various farms, all operated by women, and a washing station recently purchased by a Burundian woman for the first time in the country’s history. Harvest in Burundi isn’t until June and July, but due to some unseasonable weather this station was already in operation. We also witnessed a new dry mill under construction which will aim to focus on speciality grade coffee.
Tomorrow I will head back toward Perth, of course wishing I could spend more time in this beautiful East African country, but grateful to have met many amazing women growers, exporters, and every role in between, as well as the people who are supporting their efforts to achieve great things at this special coffee origin.