Belgians introduced the first Arabica coffee tree to Burundi in the early 1930s. Coffee cultivation has been blossoming in the country ever since. Until the early nineties, Burundi invested heavily in its coffee industry with assistance from the World Bank. On a national level, the country launched an ambitious program of coffee washing station construction and tree planting. Over the years, coffee production in Burundi increased rapidly.
In the mid-2000s, after over a decade of civil strife, Burundi returned to the development of its coffee industry. The government and international private companies invested in the sector to start producing higher quality coffee. Through privatization and liberalization, the coffee industry opened up a little. Smallholder producers also started organizing into cooperatives as a way to bring their coffee to the international coffee market.
Specialty coffee production took hold in Burundi as well. Under influence of the private sector and foreign investors, washing stations started raising the bar of the cup profile commonly associated with Burundian coffee.
The Burundian coffee industry is split over two main parties: state-owned and private. Both are involved in the industry through washing station management companies and exporting companies. The state-owned companies are the Sogestals (Sociétés de Gestions des Stations de Lavage, or, translated: Management company of washing stations). The private companies operate under different names. The washing station management companies are the organizing bodies behind the majority of washing stations in Burundi. The washing stations rely on them for financing, transport, fertilizer, commercialization, export, and so on.
32cup only works with privately owned washing station management companies and exporters. As part of the Sucafina group, we are vertically integrated in the supply chain throughout Burundi. Through this vertical integration we have a solid, reliable and transparent supply chain– something of immense value in this challenging country!
Our local operation is coordinated by our sister company BUCAFE. They have various washing stations across the country and their own dry mill in Gitega. The washing stations are grouped together under BUGESTAL. Next to that, we have our sustainability branch Kahawatu, who is responsible for all kinds of local impact project in the coffee communities. These projects can have all different angles: socioeconomic, environmental, technical support, and so on. We source our microlots from award-winning washing stations like Kibingo and Nemba through a second company called Greenco.
Most of the coffees you find in our Burundian selection are produced in the Kayanza province. Kayanza has the best coffee growing reputation in Burundi. Coffee farms lie in the highlands, where soils are rich and volcanic. But optimal growing conditions alone aren’t enough to produce a high-quality coffee. To achieve a top quality coffee, a skilled and dedicated washing station manager is essential. They oversee the implementation of good economic practice and farmer education and collaborate with the producers to ensure they have access to the necessary tools. They also help farmers determine and implement the practices best suited to the specific growing conditions of their plantations.