Author Archives: Brendon Maxwell

My Time at the Rwanda Hingakawa Co-Op, Part 2

Brendon Maxwell

I recently wrote about my time at the Hingakawa co-op, a female-owned and operated coffee initiative that has brought opportunity and restoration to a community devastated by violence and war in the 1990’s. Part of what makes the chance to work with these women so special is that they are innovators, they are survivors, and they are hard workers.

fair trade, fresh roasted coffee

When we get to know our partner farmers, we care for them.

When I say we care for them, that doesn’t mean that we only care about the quality of the production of their specialty coffee, but we truly care of their goals and their mission. When we heard about their goal to build and create a center for sewing, we were excited to see and learn more.  Not only would this provide a source for extra income between coffee harvests, but it would allow for younger women to learn a new trade, a skill that can be used wherever they go.

fair trade, fresh roasted coffee 2

As we spent time with Corette, the president of the Hingakawa coffee co-op, she walked us back to the little plot of land that has already been purchased (with proceeds from the coffee farm) for the sewing center.  They have already met with a construction team and know the costs, have architectural drawings, and even some 3-D renderings.

One major difference between the US and Rwanda (and nearly every other developing nation) is that you cannot get financing for projects like homes. This means that you must have ALL of the money up front, which is very different from we’re able to do here in the US.
fair trade, fresh roasted coffee 3

This project creates a wonderful opportunity for us to further partner with these incredible women, not at all because it increases coffee production or makes business sense, but because we’re having a positive impact on these people and their mission.

As I was sitting down with a new gentleman we hired last week, we were welcoming him to the team and walking through our vision statement and core values so that he understands our expectations and why we are doing what we are. As I read our vision out loud, it solidified our desire to partner with Hingakawa and the incredible women who work fiercely to make better lives for themselves, the loved ones around them, and even their former enemies. Our vision at Utopian Coffee is to:

Deliver an exceptional experience, with uncanny service, to people who enjoy and appreciate craft coffee, while making a positive and sustainable impact in countries of coffee origin.

And we consider ourselves beyond fortunate to be able to do exactly that. We’re honored to partner with the women of the Hingakawa coffee co-op and look forward to keeping you updated on their progress.

My Time at the Rwanda Hingakawa Co-Op

Brendon Maxwell

As I sat in the restaurant surrounded by green and yellow painted concrete walls, I was hit by this wave of feeling.

It was a combination of excitement and optimism. I had the pleasure of eating with Corette Nakabonye, the 61-yr-old female president of the Hingakawa coffee cooperative. Her coffee story and that of Hingakawa is not a simple one, but it is certainly a powerful one. There is a lot of history that sets the stage for this unfolding play, and this blog post cannot do it justice, so I will simply talk about why Hingakawa was formed and how it is transforming lives.

The Hingakawa co-op, set in the hills about an hour outside of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, is a beautiful place.

And the physical beauty is just a small piece of what makes this so incredible. The real story is the redemption that has resulted from women recognizing their shared pain in humanity above all else. The genocide in Rwanda in 1994 that arose from ethnic conflict created many widows. But instead of letting those differences create further division, these women came together to form this coffee co-op to recognize their similarities and to support one another. And through this support and tremendously hard work, they have been producing excellent specialty coffee.

We are honored to be partnered with them, and thrilled to be able to share their story….and the fruit of their labor, the Rwanda Hingakawa coffee. You can find it in our online store and give it a try by clicking here.