We were introduced to Emmanuel by the kind souls at 1000 Faces. Ben Bowdoin started Sundog Trading just to get coffees from Baho to the U.S. and into good homes. Our first conversation with Emmanuel via Whatsapp was wonderful, deep, and rich, and we had an instant connection! He shared his heart through his story and we are so grateful for that vulnerability and for the work he’s doing in Rwanda to ensure producers are getting paid a fair wage for their coffees.
Of Baho, Emmanuel says, “Baho’s vision on community is guided by having a synergetic relationship with the community of farmers that we work with, where we guide them, and by creating solutions in a replicable, sustainable, and scalable manner. Those things lead to economic growth and poverty reduction. Our overall vision is implied by the meaning of our name, Baho, which in our local language means live/life. It is like a tree that grows up and has branches, flowers, and fruits yet still keeps its roots in the ground. Baho is born, grows up, and sells coffee both locally and internationally and never forgets the origin.”
When we first spoke to Emmanuel in 2018, we mentioned to him that we like to prioritize women-produced coffees. He agreed completely, and since then has kept us in the loop on his work with the women from now three different stations.
Ikizere, which means confidence in Kinyarwanda, is Baho’s flagship initiative from their more traceable lot separations. In short, the group is composed of widowed women and single mothers who share the unique challenges of navigating traditionally patriarchal systems, both in Rwandese society as a whole and specifically in coffee production. Through supporting the Ikizere project, we hope to aid in developing a stronger sense of community between the women involved and to create a platform through which their voices can be heard.
According to Emmanuel, “Ikizere women coffee is composed by women of the same identity (single mothers, heads of families). Their reasons for being single mothers are different, but all people in this category face many social and economic challenges due to traditional perceptions. We decided to bring these women together, through coffee, and revive their hope by showing them that we consider them as part of the community and that they are equally needed, important, and valued like any other person regardless of the struggle, social, and economic situation. It’s a group that started in 2020 that is now well-organized and has elected leadership to coordinate activities. Recognition was one step, but we also want to advocate for them and sell their coffee to buyers who care about people, humanity, and equality. With income from this coffee, Baho promised these women to receive the highest price of cherries in the country and, through support from our buyers, will pay for their health insurance at least for the 2020 crop year.”
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