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Bloomberg Philanthropies gives $10m to African women’s coffee program

A woman farming coffee in AfricaBloomberg Philanthropies has announced it will invest an additional US$10 million to expand the organization’s women’s economic development program in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Through a grant to the Relationship Coffee Institute, a non profit dedicated to improving the livelihoods of rural Rwandan women coffee farmers through training and market access, more women will be able to benefit and participate in Africa’s economic growth.

“In Sub-Saharan Africa, agricultural production, tourism and construction are rapidly growing industries that are fuelling economic development. Bloomberg Philanthropies has helped ensure that more women are not only a vital part of this growth – but emerge as strong participants and beneficiaries,” says Patricia E. Harris, CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The Relationship Coffee Institute is a key partner in helping women access one of the most valuable agriculture commodities – coffee.  Currently, the coffee supply chain struggles to provide 25 million smallholder farmers with a fair and sustainable means to meet their basic needs. The problem is especially acute for the estimated 12 million smallholder farmers who are women, most of whom are marginalized and left out of the global marketplace. Without access to knowledge, markets, and buyer networks, smallholder farmers miss the opportunity to make needed income to feed their families and care for their communities. The Relationship Coffee Institute connects women farmers to resources and global markets so they can meet the international demand for specialty coffee.

The new round of funding will allow the institute to reach an additional 20,000 women and builds on a previous commitment of over US$2 million. In 2013, with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Relationship Coffee Institute’s main partner, Sustainable Harvest has continued to expand its women’s coffee program, and by 2015 was sourcing nearly 1 million pounds annually of women-grown coffee from nine countries. The funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies allowed Sustainable Harvest to scale its social enterprise model by working with government and local NGOs. As a result, Relationship Coffee Institute was able to reach a larger number of women, many of them widows with limited agronomical skills.

The Rwandan government, after seeing women enrolled in the program present at a major coffee conference, Let’s Talk Coffee, asked the Rwanda Coffee Institute to implement its training to all 400,000 Rwandan coffee farmers in efforts to bolster economic growth. In Sub-Saharan Africa, agricultural production, tourism and construction are rapidly growing industries that are fuelling economic development.

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