Rwandan coffee cooperative wins Swedish environment prize

A Rwandan coffee cooperative has won the Swedish City of Gothenburg's International Environmental Prize for its "socially, ecologically and economically" responsible coffee production, organizers announced on Wednesday.

The Abahuzamugambi coffee collective, which was launched in 1999 in the town of Maraba, will be awarded the prize for its achievements in one of the poorest areas of Rwanda, the southwestern Swedish city of Gothenburg said in a statement.

“It can be difficult enough for rich countries to take steps to protect the environment and it is often even more difficult in poor countries,” city council leader Göran Johansson said in the statement.

“That’s why it feels extremely right that the jury has decided to reward a small cooperative in Rwanda that is working so successfully with organic coffee production and social work,” he added.

The collective, which today has more than 2,000 members, uses no fertilizer or chemical insecticides and all sales profits, nearly three million dollars last year, go directly to the coffee growers.

The collective, which counts more than 50 percent women, has had a huge social impact in the area, the prize organizers say.

“One of the many positive effects in the local community is that 80 percent of children now attend school, compared to 10 percent before the cooperative started. Roads have been built, water pipes have been laid and local businesses have begun to emerge,” organizers said.

The Rwanda Maraba Bourbon coffee exported to the United States and several European countries tasted better than regular coffee, Johansson said.

Representatives of the collective will accept the prize and a check for one million Swedish kronor at a ceremony at the Museum of World Culture in Gothenburg on November 24.

The City of Gothenburg’s International Environmental Prize has been awarded each year since 1999.

Last year, economists Joan Bavaria of the US and Tessa Tennant of Britain won the prize for their so-called sustainable investment funds.