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.



Green Party leader: ‘Right-wing parties want to push us out of parliament’

Per Bolund, joint leader of Sweden's Green party, spoke for thirteen and a half minutes at Almedalen before he mentioned the environment, climate, or fossil fuels, in a speech that began by dwelling on healthcare, women's rights, and welfare, before returning to the party's core issue.

Green Party leader: 'Right-wing parties want to push us out of parliament'

After an introduction by his joint leader Märta Stenevi, Bolund declared that his party was going into the election campaign on a promise “to further strengthen welfare, with more staff and better working conditions in healthcare, and school without profit-making, where the money goes to the pupils and not to dividends for shareholders”. 

Only then did he mention the party’s efforts when in government to “build the world’s first fossil-free welfare state”. 

“We know that if we want welfare to work in the future, we must have an answer to our time’s biggest crisis: the threat to the environment and the climate,” he said.

“We know that there is no welfare on a dead planet. We need to take our society into a new time, where we end our dependency on oil, meet the threat to the climate, and build a better welfare state within nature’s boundaries, what we call a new, green folkhem [people’s home].” 

He presented green policies as something that makes cities more liveable, with the new sommargågator — streets pedestrianised in the summer — showing how much more pleasant a life less dependent on cars might be.  

He then said his party wanted Sweden to invest 100 billion kronor a year on speeding up the green transition, to make Sweden fossil fuel-free by 2030. 

“We talk about the climate threat because it’s humanity’s biggest challenge, our biggest crisis,” he said. “And because we don’t have much time.” 

In the second half of his speech, however, Bolund used more traditional green party rhetoric, accusing the other political parties in Sweden of always putting off necessary green measures, because they do not seem urgent now, like a middle-aged person forgetting to exercise. 

“We know that we need to cut emissions radically if we are even going to have a chance of meeting our climate goal, but for all the other parties there’s always a reason to delay,” he said. 

“We are now seeing the curtain go up on the backlash in climate politics in Sweden. All the parties have now chosen to slash the biofuels blending mandate which means that we reduce emissions from petrol and diesel step for step, so you automatically fill your tank in a greener way. Just the government’s decision to pause the  reduction mandate will increase emissions by a million tonnes next year.” 

The right-wing parties, he warned, were also in this election running a relentless campaign against the green party. 

“The rightwing parties seem to have given up trying to win the election on their own policies,” he said. “Trying to systematically push out of parliament seems to be their way of trying to take power. And they don’t seem above any means. Slander campaigns, lies, and false information have become every day in Swedish right-wing politics.” 

He ended the speech with an upbeat note. 

“A better, more sustainable world is possible. There is a future to long for. If you give us a chance then that future is much closer than you think!”

Read the speech here in Swedish and here in (Google Translated) English.