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Origin Guide, Africa.


Located in South-East Africa, Burundi is a landlocked country bordered by Rwanda to the North, Tanzania to the South and East and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the West. Traditionally, Burundi was a kingdom ruled by the Twa, Tutsi and Hutu people until it was colonised towards the end of the 19th Century by Germany. Following the First World War, the League of Nations gave the region known as ‘Ruanda-Urundi’ (now Rwanda and Burundi) to Belgium who began to rule through the dominant Tutsi chiefs and princes. This led to a concentration of wealth amongst this group and caused decades of civil unrest between the Hutu and Tutsi people. Following independence in 1962, the United Nations Security Council has recognised two separate incidences of genocide in the country with around 250,000 people killed between 1962 and 1993. There is no doubting the horrors committed during this period, but to consider Burundi only in terms of its tragedies would be wrong. It is an incredibly beautiful and culturally rich nation which also produces coffees of outstanding quality.

Coffee was first introduced to Burundi by the Belgians during their rule. Estates were established and production and sales increased. Following independence in 1962, the coffee industry has been through various periods of state governance and privatisation. The sector is now privatised and Coffee is Burundi’s main export after gold - it is quickly gaining a reputation for the production of outstanding coffee, though it has faced many challenges to achieve this. The country is very densely populated with agricultural communities and as a result, the soil is intensely used. This, along with the steep lie of the land has meant the effects of erosion are keenly felt in some areas. The capital investment required to produce coffees of specialty grade is also huge and due to issues around land ownership it is nearly impossible for smallholder farmers to access credit. 

In Burundi, we work with Raw Material who have constructed a centralised washing station called Izuba (meaning ‘sun’ in Kirundi) which acts as a vital collection point for the surrounding community. Producers delivering their cherry here are able to access finance, agricultural inputs and harvest assistance when needed. Izuba also guarantees the prices paid to producers regardless of market movements - as a non-profit, Raw Material’s sole focus is on increasing producer profitability and they achieve this through increasing the value of coffee through diligent processing and quality control. It is usually fully washed coffees from Burundi which are the best in cup profile and Bourbon is prevalent in the country though it is common to come across Typica and some SL varieties too. Coffee grows across the country, though we tend to favour those from the regions of Kayanza and Ngozi which border Rwanda in the North. 

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Learn more about our supplier partnerships with Raw Material.

A non-profit organisation, Raw Material was founded to ensure specialty coffee meets its potential in becoming a solution to the issues facing our industry, not a further contributor to the cycle of debt and disadvantage that many producers have faced over generations.

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