Staff Pick

New Arrival

Susan Heller Evenson

Rebuilding the Hope of a Nation

By: Susan Heller Evenson

Marcelline Budza, inspired by her own mother’s resilience, established Rebuild Women’s Hope (RWH) in 2013 along the shores of Idjwi, a large remote island in the middle of Lake Kivu in eastern Congo with a vision “to place women at the center of the integral development of her community” and that “building the hope of women is building the hope of the entire nation.”

Even in its early days, the cooperative is investing in the lives of members in meaningful ways. Micro-credit programs are hard to access and often come with exorbitant interest rates, so RWH offers pre-harvest, interest-free loans which producers can repay during the harvest with either cash or cherry. RWH has plans to start a nursery program to begin replacing the older bourbon trees that are common in much of eastern Congo. The cooperative also used funds to build a much-needed maternal and pediatric clinic on Idjwi for the community, which was completed in December 2020. A women’s center opened September 2020 offering training in literacy, business skills, and income-generating activities, such as sewing, for their members. Additionally, RWH is offering an incentive program where they give members a cow or a goat at the end of the season if they reach certain cherry-delivery thresholds.

Each of the cooperative’s four washing stations sit along the shore of Lake Kivu, at around 1,500 masl, with producers harvesting cherry up to 2,000 masl. Producers deliver cherry either to cherry-collection sites or directly to the washing stations, where they sort the cherry on a table, then float and remove the “floaters” (unripe coffee), weigh, depulp, and then have a wet soak (with continuously running water) for 8 hours following by washing, pre-drying, and drying the parchemnt on raised beds for up to 24 days. The result? A delicious cup of coffee that includes notes of chocolate, brown sugar, baking spice and vanilla, with citric acidity and syrupy body.

Rebuild Women’s Hope took 1st place for coffee quality at the Saveur du Kivu Compeition, and Founder Marcelline Budza has won multiple humanitarian and human-rights awards for the ongoing work centering and empowering their female members, including the 2017 Robert Burns Humanitarian Award (Scotland), the 2019 French Republic Human Rights Prize, and the 2020 University of Oslo Human Rights Award.

In the desire to expand our RWH offerings to clients, as of 2023 Atlas will be importing a small volume of the farmer-washed Kivu 4 grade from RWH in addition to the fully-washed higher grade Kivu 3. RWH processes its coffees so thoroughly at the farm level that their Kivu 4 (which is typically seen as lower in quality) consistently scores in the 83-85 point range and useful in a variety of applications but at a slightly more economical price point than the fully-washed Kivu 3 that we also carry..

Additional information about Rebuild Women’s Hope can be found on their website:

2023 Harvest Updates

We visited all four of RWH’s washing stations on Idjwi Island in June 2023, as well as their clinic.

Rebuild Women’s Hope constructed a much-needed medical clinic in 2019 on Idjwi between Hala and Boza WS focusing on women and children. More than 2,000 babies have been born in the clinic to date, and they hope to one day have an operating theatre. The clinic offers some free services to the community, including a sexual reproductive health program with family planning services.

Rebuild Women’s Hope is already certified Organic, and is aiming for RFA certified in September 2023. While we had previously visited their first two washing stations, Boza and Hala, we were also able to visit their new newer washing stations this time: Chasi (built in 2021) and Kolwe (built in 2022).

Each washing station has a small team of logistics, cashier, quality control officer, manager. When members delivery cherry, they can choose to either be paid immediately, or to use RWH as a banking/savings account of sorts, and withdraw money only occasionally. Chasi and Boza, due to their more sunny locations, are also processing naturals.

Boza washing station is managed by Mary Chokoro, the only female washing station manager in South Kivu, to the best of everyone’s knowledge. Currently 110 members are involved in an agronomy and agroforesty project through Oxfam Fairtrade to renew coffee trees, plant more shade trees and nitrogen fixers, and improve coffee quality. In August an additional 120 members will be added to the program.

In the midst of challenging conditions (market access challenges, coffee smugglers, and ever-present logistical issues–they are on a remote island, after all!) Rebuild Women’s Hope continues to center women through all of its coffee and initiatives. Please reach out to your Atlas rep for specific cupping notes and samples of RWH spot lots!


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