While much of the international media was devoting its attention to COVID-19 in early May, various coffee-growing regions throughout East Africa were being hammered by steady downpours, flash flooding and landslides.
The unusually aggressive rainy season reportedly led to the deaths of hundreds of of people in Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, and Ethiopia, while also leading to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people forced to flee, and the widespread loss of land and agricultural crops.
It is presently impossible to ascertain the precise damage to the East African coffee sector, where some of the world’s most prized Arabica beans are grown for export markets that have become essential to national economies and farmer livelihoods.
At least one concrete fundraising relief effort is afoot in Rwanda, which suffered some of the worst rain-related damage, including the loss of at least 70 people.
The England-based nonprofit coffee trading company Raw Material has reported that at least 28 members of coffee-growing communities in the Nyabihu District in Northern Rwanda lost their lives during early May flooding.
Adding to those tragedies have been the losses of critical infrastructure such as schools, a healthcare center, community centers, roads, and access to emergency supplies. Coffee infrastructure, too, has been destroyed.
Along with Muraho Trading Co — which owns and operates four coffee mills, or washing stations, in Northern Rwanda, while maintaining purchasing relationships with others and buying from thousands of smallholder farmers — Raw Material has launched a GoFundMe campaign to support the regional coffee sector.
“Over the past two weeks, coffee production managers have visited over 200 families that deliver coffee to the Shyira and Vunga washing stations, to gather information on how they have been directly affected,” Raw Material and Muraho Trading stated in the campaign. “The preliminary report details this subgroup’s direct losses incurred so far, at an estimated rebuild cost of USD $132,000. With average local incomes being less than USD $700 per annum, this is a crippling figure.”
Evariste Hagumimana, the manager of Shyira coffee washing station, added, “These floods and mudslides were the worst catastrophic event in our lifetimes. Twenty eight people lost their lives. Almost everyone in Nyabihu is affected; houses, roads, bridges, crops in fields, and animals were all impacted.”
For more, see the GoFundMe campaign. For more on the flood-related devastation throughout East Africa, visit ReliefWeb. If you are aware of other efforts underway to help rebuild coffee infrastructure in flood-damaged portions of East Africa, please let us know using the form below: