The company is greatly contributing to the development and income improvement of the local tea farmers; the factories’ own tea plantations supply about 50% of the tea leaves needed for their production while the rest is supplied by the local cooperatives and farmers.
The factory contributes in raising the living standards of the area and development of the infrastructure.
According to Turahirwa, a farmer who owns a tea plantation covering 1 hectare and takes good care of his tea bushes will have about 14.000 tea bushes in his field. That person can get around 100.000 Frw per month. “Tea is not a seasonal crop, you can pick leaves every day and just one tree can give you 2 kg of tea leaves a year.” And 100 to 105 Frw is paid for a kilo of green leaves.
With the employment of local residents and being supplied in part by local farmers, Rwanda Mountain Tea is developing the rural areas and contributing in the fight against poverty in the rural regions where tea plantations are to be found. “Tea is their only source of income,” said Emile Nsanzabaganwa, the manager of the Rubaya Factory in Ngororero. The output of the company in the 5 districts they operate in can be around 300 million per month. The company also has an agronomist that helps the farmers when needed with modern farming techniques.
Hassan Ntawuruhunga, the president of Cotradagi a tea famers’ cooperative in Ngororero that works with Rubaya Tea Factory, told us that they are very happy with the way things are going. “We are able to provide for our families and pay those who help with the work in the fields, thanks to the money we get. Sure we would like to see the prices go up, but the factory helps us a lot in showing us how we can improve our production and they have made getting the tea to the factory easy for us.”
The transportation of the tea to the factories has been made easier thanks to the work Rwanda Mountain Tea has done of improving the roads to the factories – making access to the tea factories easier not only to the farmers supplying the tea leaves, but also for the vehicles conveying the tea from the factories to the rest of the country, or abroad. “The repairs or upgrading of these roads are not only benefiting the factory and tea farmers, but they are opening up our area as the access is made increasingly easy,” said Innocent Mutwarangabo the Executive Secretary of Muhanda sector, where the Rubaya factory is located.
Not only is the factory contributing in raising the living standards of the area and development of the infrastructure, but the tea plantations themselves are very important. “The bushes can last up to 100 years without having to change and having something else planted in the fields.” But as Nsanzabaganwa pointed out, it takes commitment on the farmers’ part to take good care of what brings them income and maximize the utility and usefulness of the tea plants.
A few of the challenges the Rwandan tea sector is facing are: limited access to fertilizers for small tea growers as they are very expensive for them, limited industrial skills and limited processing capacity. Rwanda Mountain Tea has not been idle in looking for solutions to these problems. They are improving on those areas by helping the local farmers to improve their farming techniques in order to increase production, giving them professional advice and expertise through their agronomist to take better care of their plantations and facilitating their access to fertilizers by buying them and distributing them to the farmers who then pay afterwards when they get the money.