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Mission: Women

Empowerment by Andrew Ngozo

It is not often that we are told of stories of personal tragedy that have turned into inspiration. Epiphanie Mukashyaka, the founder and chief executive officer of Buf Coffee is one such inspiration. Her story has been evolving since the tumultuous days of the Rwandan genocide in 1994. She lost a husband, a child and many members of her family. As strong willed as she is, her personal grief spurred her on to establish a business in order to sustain the livelihoods of the remaining members of the family. Today, Buf Coffee is a household name in the high end coffee market. Epiphanie has empowered many farmers and women in her village and continues to, annually, provide employment for her compatriots. Can you please provide a background on you and your company? I founded Buf Coffee in 2000. I now manage the company with my sons, Samuel and Aloys, who have taken an active role in running and expanding the business. The name ‘Buf’ derives from ‘Bufundu’, the former name of the region in which our washing stations are located. I lost my husband, a child, and many extended family members in the horrific genocide in 1994. I was faced with the responsibility of caring for my seven surviving children and rebuilding their life. With a limited education and little money or support, I decided to focus on coffee, and set about rebuilding and developing a business, and, with it, the local community. My late husband had been a coffee farmer. I started to learn more about speciality coffee with the assistance of the USAID-financed Partnership for Enhancing Agriculture in Rwanda through Linkages (PEARL) project, a transformational programme aimed at switching the focus of the Rwandan coffee sector from a historic emphasis on quantity to one of quality—



and so opening up Rwanda to the far higher-earning specialty coffee market. The programme and its successor, Sustaining Partnerships to enhance Rural Enterprise and Agribusiness Development (SPREAD), have been invaluable in helping our small-scale coffee farmers rebuild their production in the wake of the genocide, and the world coffee crash, of the 1990s. I went on to establish Buf Coffee, and decided to build a washing station, with the help of the PEARL programme and a loan from the Rwandan Development Bank. I came up with the idea to build this and nothing was going to stop me. I established Remera Washing Station in 2003 and Nyarusiza in 2005, and was the first woman in Rwanda to hold a privately owned company and produce specialty coffee. My aim with the washing stations was to improve the quality of coffee by shifting the focus from producing commercial coffee to producing high quality specialty coffee. In doing so, I intended to add value to my processed coffee in order to secure higher and more stable prices for coffee farmers in the region. As a result, I not only improved the livelihood of my own family, but also improved those of my neighbour farmers and the wider community, directly by increasing their income (through higher prices paid for their cherry) and, indirectly, by bringing important services like safe water and electricity to their villages via the establishment of washing stations. Today Buf Coffee buys coffee cherries from as many as 7 000 smallholder farmers, including five different local cooperatives. Buf has very strong links with the local communities that supply it, providing jobs for hundreds of locals during peak harvest (May–June/July) and 10 permanent positions year-round. Buf Coffee’s exceptional quality has been recognised year after year. It was awarded a prize in the 2007 Golden Cup; and placed in the Cup of Excellence in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014.

Can you please elaborate on what drives your strength, determination and vision? My key focus points are to love and focus on what I am doing, to always learn from others, and improve knowledge for better practice. Moreover, I allow people to develop because by developing people you allow them to have different alternative options of improving their livelihoods, and those of their households. A community where people have good livelihoods is both socially and economically sustainable.

Profile for CEO Global

MIW Regional Digital Magazine 2017  

Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government – this annual publication showcases Africa’s most influential women across the co...

MIW Regional Digital Magazine 2017  

Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government – this annual publication showcases Africa’s most influential women across the co...

Profile for ceoglobal