Category Archives: World

A Rwandan Tradition


Our trainees spend a lot of time visiting the people who grow and supply our coffee and tea. We asked Becky, who travelled alongside fellow trainee Jamie, to write about some of her experiences. Here’s her second report.

Pictured on the right – Becky and Jamie digging in Karengera, Rwanda.

“During our visit to Rwanda, Jamie and I had the unexpected opportunity to take part in a very old and very special Rwandan tradition with some of our coffee farmers: Umuganda.

“In Rwanda, Umuganda means ‘coming together in common purpose’ and in traditional Rwandan culture community members would perform Umuganda to help their friends, family and neighbours with difficult tasks such as building houses.

“In an effort to reconstruct Rwandan society in the wake of the 1994 genocide, the Rwandan government drew on the idea of Umuganda to create a monthly national day of community building, where members come together to work to make their communities better.

“As everyone volunteers to take part on the last Saturday of every month, Jamie and I were no exception. We donned our hiking boots and headed out with Ignace Ntazinda, from our suppliers KZ Noir, to help dig a water channel near Karengera, on the shores of Lake Kivu.

“Many of the farmers who grow the delicious Rwandan coffee we buy were also there and lent us spades for the day so we could get stuck in. Rwanda is known as the land of a thousand hills, so mastering the climbs was tough work.

“But it was worth it, and we even got a special mention at the thank you meeting afterwards. It was great to spend time with some of our farmers working together on Umuganda. We’ll always remember it when we drink their coffee.”

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Smart Coffee Growing in Kenya

Our trainees spend a lot of time visiting the people who grow and supply our coffee and tea. We asked Becky, who’s travelling alongside fellow trainee Jamie, to write about some of her experiences. Here’s her first report.

Pictured on the right are coffee grower and retired maths teacher, Geoffrey Mwai Mbogu, and agronomist James Mugi.

“As part of my training in Taylors’ sourcing department, I recently set out on a trip to meet some of the suppliers who grow and produce the fantastic quality tea and coffee that is so important to us at Taylors. This week I’ve had the privilege of meeting some of the Kenyan farmers who grow the bright citric coffee which is such an important part of some of our blends.

“One farmer I was really excited to meet was Geoffrey Mwai Mbogu, who grows coffee in Kirinyaga County in Central Kenya, and is a member of Mutira Co-operative. Geoffrey is a retired maths teacher who started growing coffee 11 years ago in order to help fund the education of his children, one of whom is now training to be a doctor. He owns 500 coffee trees, but also grows papayas, peppers and pineapples, as well as owning a cow and some chickens.

“What particularly impressed me about Geoffrey was his passion and commitment to growing the best possible quality coffee on his farm. As part of Mutira Co-operative he’s been working with James Mugi, the Cooperative’s agronomist and trainer, to introduce practices on his farm which will care for the environment while at the same time ensuring his coffee tastes even more delicious. This has included regular pruning of his coffee trees, planting shade trees so the coffee isn’t grown in full sun, and applying fertiliser at the optimum time of the year.

“Since working with James, Geoffrey has seen the quality of his coffee cherries rise dramatically, which at the same time has led to higher income, helping Geoffrey continue to support his family.

“It was very inspiring for me to meet farmers like Geoffrey across our supply chain in Kenya, and to see the work and commitment they put into growing such fantastic quality coffee for our blends.”

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Beehives and rainwater

It’s time to share some more Taylors Grant Scheme updates – you can find out more about the scheme here.

Ipanema Coffee Farm, Brazil

Ipanema Coffee Farm, Brazil - eyes on animals

What has been achieved?
The event goal is to diversify and to expand activities in environmental education. Ipanema Coffees along with Ipanema Institute has been developing a project for the past three years to stimulate the curiosity and to create closer relationships between the residents, employees and the local fauna. The project has been ongoing for the last 3 years and has been going from strength to strength. The children will be continually educated about the animals that can be found in their local area with other events planned.

How much did we donate?

Who has benefited?
200 children across five public schools benefited from the project. This year, the children attended an event at the Ipanema Institute where an exhibition of all the materials that they had prepared was showcased. During the event there was competition to select the two best essays, with the winners receiving a kit with educational materials.

Ngere Tea Factory, Kenya

Kenya - Ngere water tanks 1

What has been achieved?
In partnership with the KTDA Foundation, we have provided six plastic water tanks for rainwater harvesting at six primary schools close to Ngere Tea Factory. In the Ngere area, schools have often had to make do with an unpredictable and scarce water supply which has posed health risks to school children who need adequate water for drinking and hygiene purposes. At the end of July this year the six tanks were installed. This project has supplied a means of providing a reliable and clean source of water to six schools. Jaki Mathaga, Manager of the KTDA Foundation, said: “The handing over of the water tanks to schools in Ngere was especially exciting as there were kids involved. You cannot imagine how good it feels to have clean water and from nearby.”

How much did we donate?
Over £1,900, which was match funded by the KTDA Foundation.

Who has benefited?
The water tanks will not only benefit students at all six schools immediately, but will provide safe and clean water for the schools for many years to come.

Gisovu Tea Factory, Rwanda

Rwanda - Gisovu honey 1

What has been achieved?
Gisovu have set up a honey project to provide employment for local people. The project aimed to take advantage of the excellent local flora around Gisovu, which provides the ideal conditions for honey production. The project has drawn on the expertise of Rwanda Honey Ltd, who have confirmed that the area has the potential to product the best honey in Rwanda. With the help of the grant from Taylors, and a match funded investment from Gisovu, the project enabled Gisovu to purchase 30 bee hives and the suits and equipment needed to manage them. The grant also funded five days of training from two qualified bee keepers on site, training workers and smallholders in bee keeping skills and management. So far, land has been prepared at Gisovu and the hives themselves were put in place in July 2014.

How much did we donate?
£2,000.  From here, the aim is for the project to become self funding through sales of honey.

Who has benefited?
Not only has the project developed a business which will generate local employment for local people, but following the introduction of the hives Gisovu aim to train local people in bee keeping and honey collection and production techniques, encouraging small tea smallholders to begin to produce their own honey, generating their own source of additional income.

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Seeing clearly

YT blog eye camp

What, exactly, is an “eye camp”? And what does it have to do with us?

Well, it’s a small part of a big plan to check the eyesight of every person in Rwanda over the age of eight – and to provide glasses to those who need them.

It’s the goal of a charity called Vision for a Nation Foundation, and these temporary eye camps are one of the ways it’s achieving its aim.

And with some funding from Taylors, a two-day eye camp was held at the Gisovu Tea Estate.

It was led by two of the charity’s ophthalmic technicians, who trained a nurse in the Gisovu Health Centre in primary eye care – enough to conduct basic vision assessments and give glasses to patients, now and in the future.

Mutiganda Theophile, who works at the estate, was one of those eye camp patients.

He’s had problems with his vision for 13 years, which gave him headaches when he tried to read and stopped him from writing.

He said he was “very happy” to receive a pair of adjustable glasses, that have enabled him to read and write properly.

In fact, 157 people who work on the estate headed in to the health centre for an assessment over those two days. It emerged that 63 of them needed – and were given – glasses.

It goes to show just how crucial the Vision for a Nation programme is. You can find out more about it here.

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An Education

YT blog Becky 2

Back in December we introduced you to our 2013 supplier grant scheme, which supports our long term suppliers to carry out social and environmental projects within their communities. Here’s an update, from trainee Commodities Buyer Becky Mundy – and though it’s about tea rather than coffee, we thought you might like to hear about it:

We had a fantastic response from our suppliers this year, and we’re keen to share with you the stories of the projects that we’ve helped to support as they progress over the next few months. In fact, we’ve just had an update from our largest tea suppliers, the Kenya Tea Development Agency, about some of the education projects we are helping to make possible.

KTDA is the leading management agency for over 570,000 small scale farmers in Kenya. They collectively produce over 60% of Kenya’s tea. Not only does the KTDA make the most tea in Kenya, but also the very best and it’s that commitment to quality that’s helped us build a strong and close relationship over many years.

In 2010 the KTDA set up the KTDA Foundation, a charity which aims to improve the welfare of small-holder tea farmers in Kenya and their communities. The foundation focuses on education, the environment, and empowering growers and their communities, and as such, they were our perfect partner when it came to supporting social and environmental projects in our producer communities.

As well as supporting tree planting initiatives, the completion of a medical facility, and the completion of an irrigation water project, to describe just a few, this year we’re partnering with the KTDA Foundation to sponsor 21 secondary school students from tea producing communities through four years of secondary education. In Kenya, the government now supports all schoolchildren through primary school education, but secondary school fees are still prohibitively high for many students.

15 year old Harrison Kiprotich Mutai, who grew up near Tirgaga Tea Factory, received excellent results in his primary school exams. However his mother, who has brought Harrison and his eight siblings up on her own and relies on casual labour to make a living, wasn’t able to support him through secondary school. Working with the KTDA Foundation, we have been able to help provide a scholarship to support Harrison through the next four years at secondary school. On 5th February Harrison joined the Kaplong Boys Secondary school, where he’s excited to be studying for the next four years.

Maureen Chelimo, who is 14 year old, grew up near Chebut Tea Factory in Nandi, Kenya. Maureen received exceptional results in her primary school exams and was accepted into Make Limuru Girls School, the best girls school in Kenya, which boasts of alumni of high profile and very successful women including lawyers, doctors, and journalists.

Maureen’s parents didn’t have the funds to support her to attend the school, so Maureen applied for a scholarship through the KTDA Foundation, which we’re helping to support. Maureen enrolled at Limuru on 6th February, and our scholarship will support her for the next four years. 21 students like Harrison and Maureen from across Kenya will have the opportunity to pursue their secondary school education thanks to this initiative.

According to the KTDA, education has been proven by far to be the best tool for improving the socio-economic livelihood of communities in which they work. At Taylors we’re proud to work with suppliers like the KTDA, who care about the communities they work in and want to help improve them.

Our 2013 grant scheme will help their work to go further, building our relationship with the communities we source from for years to come.

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A big year for grants

The view over Guadalupe, where we are helping to support the building of a crèche.The

It’s the biggest ever year for our supplier grant scheme – so we’ve asked our trainee Commodities Buyers Becky Mundy and Jamie Ball, who are managing the project, to tell you a bit more about it:

Every year Taylors of Harrogate support our long standing tea and coffee suppliers with a grant scheme for social and environmental projects taking place within the communities in which we operate.

We received a fantastic response from our suppliers to the 2013 Grant Scheme and as a result we will be supporting 52 projects, totalling over £110,000 of funds that will go towards a wide range of excellent projects.

For each project, the supplier themselves will equally match our contribution, furthering the reach of each grant and cementing their own relationships with their communities. We are committed to schemes such as this because we believe our relationships with suppliers should go beyond a simple business relationship, ensuring we maintain our shared values together.

Over the next few months we will focus on some of the fantastic initiatives we will be supporting in more detail. But for now, here’s a brief idea of some of the projects we will be helping make possible.

Some of the social projects include the construction of a classroom for first grade children of workers at Nandi Tea in Kenya, helping to complete a community medical facility at Kionyo in Kenya, the construction of a crèche at Guadalupe Zaju Farm in Mexico (that’s it in the picture above) and the contribution toward a year’s running costs of a primary school, secondary school and agricultural college for 180 children based on La Bastilla coffee farm in Nicaragua.

Environmental projects funded through the scheme will include enabling farmers to carry out a recycling project at Pangoa coffee cooperative in Peru, the procurement and distribution of 200 Energy Saving Wood Stoves to small holder producer families at Igara tea in Uganda, alongside an irrigation water project at Makomboki in Kenya.

In conjunction with our Yorkshire Rainforest Project, we will be able to increase the scope of our tree planting initiative across projects in Kenya, Malawi and Rwanda.

As the projects progress over the next few months we’ll be focusing on several in more detail.

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Skills in Brazil

Computers. They’re a pretty big deal these days.

In fact, we’ll wager you’re reading these very words on some kind of computer – a big one, or a little one that doubles as a telephone.

For schoolkids, learning how to use computers is essential. But of course, the equipment’s not cheap.

So when one of our suppliers asked for some funding to kit out a local school with computers and computer skills training, it sounded like a wonderful project.

Unipcafem is a coffee supplier based in the Brazilian state of Mina Gerais.

It asked for funding for computer classes and a pair of notebook PCs for the nearby school.

Frank Tanner, who works in our commodities department, said: “We are always keen to support the communities in tea and coffee growing areas and this project in Mina Gerais really ticks all the boxes.

“Computers are great educational tools and can help the children develop key skills that they will use throughout their school career and beyond.”

It’s just one of the projects we’ve been involved with this year. Our grant scheme allows our suppliers to ask for up to £2,000 of match funding for community projects.

You can read about another one here.

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Protecting birds in Kenya

Our ongoing Yorkshire Rainforest Project has pledged to protect an area of rainforest the size of Yorkshire – and this year we’re focusing our efforts on planting trees in Kenya, where we’re working alongside Nature Kenya (NK) and three community led groups.

Joan Gichuki (that’s Joan in the picture above) works for NK. She’s the organisation’s Local Empowerment Manager, helping to manage our project on the ground – and this is a brief interview with Joan, to give you an idea of the work that’s taking place:

“I chose to work with NK because it provides an opportunity to work directly with local communities on a daily basis.

“My role is to coordinate community conservation actions in Important Bird Areas (IBAs) where NK works.

“I also work to improve the livelihoods of local communities through nature-based enterprise development.

“My work is important because it develops skills for local communities to take conservation actions at the site level. Their response to threats is faster and more effective since they live adjacent to IBAs.

“Looking ahead, I would like to see Kenya’s Key Biodiversity Areas and IBAs restored and secured; people living adjacent to forests and other IBAs able to afford health care, education and other basic necessities including access to clean water, fresh air and food security; and credible community groups with the capacity to participate in decision making processes in Kenya at village, county and national level.

“As for myself, I hope to acquire more skills in the areas of social accountability, governance, management and business development, so that I can be more useful in working with local communities.”

You can read our previous posts on our work in Kenya here and here, and find out more about our Yorkshire Rainforest Project here

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“I can take my children to a better school”

We’re working with the Rainforest Alliance and FRICH (a UK Government fund supporting African farmers) in Rwanda and Uganda – and in this series of posts, we’re profiling some of the people we’ve been meeting along the way.

This is Beatrice. As well as tending to her coffee smallholding, Beatrice and her husband look after ten children (including a grandchild) and her livelihood in coffee provides for their food and their education. Beatrice has already made great strides with her farming techniques under Rainforest Alliance certification and is now learning how to farm to adapt to climate change.

“Before I was under the Rainforest Alliance programme my farm was not so productive – I have joined the group, I’ve been taught and now I am getting a good yield.

“I used to take my children to rural schools where the level of education is not very good. Now I can take my children to a better school so at least they can get a good education. I’m also able to buy and store food – I used to have difficulties in paying for food – now I can buy maize, which I can store and use as food for my children.”

Beatrice worries about climate change and the effect that it could have on her coffee and on her food production:

“It is true that there is a change in climate in our country. Even last year in 2012, there was too much sunshine and it affected the way the coffee flowered – the sunshine continued for a longer period and all the flowers dropped and even the berries were very few. So we had a very poor harvest last year because of long draught.”

Beatrice is excited about the climate smart training she is receiving and is quick to put her learning into practice – she is already separating her waste, making sure she doesn’t burn plastics and is shading her compost.

Now she is giving advice to her neighbours who are full of admiration for her successful and rather beautiful smallholding.

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“Now I get four kilos per tree… or five”

We’re working with the Rainforest Alliance and FRICH (a UK Government fund supporting African farmers) in Rwanda and Uganda – and in this series of posts, we’re profiling some of the people we’ve been meeting along the way.

Mamadi has been a coffee farmer for most of his life and has seen many changes over the years – both in the coffee industry and in the weather that is so crucial to his livelihood. The rains and dry periods have become increasingly unpredictable and coffee farmers have contended with long periods of drought.

Now he is being trained to adapt his farming to climate change – not only to help him cope with the changes in the weather, but also to mitigate the effect that his farming has on the climate.

Mamadi is keen for as many farmers as possible to be trained in climate smart farming techniques and that’s one reason why he hosts training sessions at his own coffee smallholding. He shows fellow farmers how good practices can help to adapt to climate change and can also increase the yield and quality of coffee that they grow.

“After training and transferring the knowledge into my garden every year I am increasing my coffee production,” he says.

“I am also improving the amount of coffee I get from each tree – now I can get four kilos per tree…or five.

“I think I have benefited from the training and the more money I get means the more work I can do. The training and the increasing of my coffee production has made me see better things for my family.”

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