Greenco, a company that oversees and structures washing stations in Kayanza province of Burundi, gives washing stations and producers support all along the production chain. They started their work in 2015, and have dominated all Cup of Excellence competitions ever since. Currently, Greenco has 13 washing stations all located in Kayanza in the north of Burundi. Greenco’s overall impact through these 13 coffee washing stations (CWS) extends to over 40’000 coffee producing households
In 2016, there was no Cup of Excellence in Burundi. Instead, the Alliance for Coffee Excellence organized a Best of Burundi competition in collaboration with ARFIC. Greenco washing stations took 8 of the top 10 positions in this competition. This is no surprise, knowing the dedication the farmers, washing station staff and agronomists put in their work! The producers receive support from the Greenco CWS managers, who are all young engineers in agronomy.
The Burundian coffee producers who want to deliver at any of the Greenco washing stations, like Nemba, are all familiar with the high quality requirements for cherry quality. At cherry intake, a picking team further sorts the cherries on maturity. This is essential for a fine processing, with less damaged beans. A depulper and mucilage removal machine remove the fruit during pulping. Next, the sticky parchment will dry ferment for 12 hours to break down the mucilage. When fermentation is complete, the parchment goes down the washing and grading channel. The grading channel separates the parchment in 5 quality grades according to the density of the beans. Heavy beans will sink at the start of the channel, while lighter beans float to the end.
Finally, the top quality coffee soaks for an additional 24 hours to remove any remaining mucilage before going to the pre-drying tables. Here, the second team of pickers checks the wet parchment to take out defect beans. After a couple of hours, the staff carries the wet parchment on trays to the drying tables. Depending on the weather conditions, it will reach 12% moisture content in about two weeks.
Supporting the producing communities
Working with young graduates in agronomy has proved to have various advantages. They can all work with computer systems, greatly simplifying the flow of information between the washing stations and Greenco. Also, they have a fresh and systematic approach to coffee production and processing, with up-to-date knowledge about farming practices. The agronomists received additional training from the ONG Kahawatu Foundation on best agricultural practices (BAP). Off season, they provide agronomist assistance to the roughly 4000 farmers who deliver cherries to Greenco CWS to prepare for the next harvest.
Next to improving quality and productivity, Greenco strives to improve socio-economic and environmental conditions around the washing stations. All of their washing stations have UTZ and 4C certification. One of their focus points is building an efficient supply chain around the CWS. Greenco is buying 93% of its cherries directly from farmers via collection centers. This way, they improve farm-gate price to the producers.
Another socio-economic challenge that Greenco addresses is youth unemployment. The national youth unemployment rate is almost 50%. At Greenco, young graduates receive a decent salary and benefits (house, motorbike, healthcare) as well as real career prospects.
Next to the training on farming practices, Greenco organizes trainings for farmer groups about various social aspects. Coffee families learn about gender equality, financial planning, family planning, breastfeeding and more.
On an environmental side, Greenco has equipped all washing stations with water treatment facilities and solar panels and batteries. The station has ponds to purify the wastewater from processing before flowing back in the river network. The solar panels provide energy for computers, lighting, and smartphones.