YPI Scotland

President Paul Kagame visited The Wood Foundation Africa’s Rugabano factory and encouraged local people to capitalise on the demand for high-quality Rwandan tea.

The President was given a tour of the facilities by David Knopp, the Foundation’s Director of Africa, and Rudra Chatterjee, the Chairman of Luxmi Tea, and discussed measures to improve tea productivity, and how to maximise the positive, sustainable impact of the investment.

Rugabano Tea Factory opened in 2019 and employs 2000 people, engaging 4000 farming families who already supply more than 1m Kgs of tea each year. Once the project is fully planted out, the smallholder farmers are expected to supply more than 44 m Kgs of green leaf to the factory annually.

David Knopp said:

“This area has been transformed from an area of subsistence-only farming to a thriving commercial region with industrial development and modern infrastructure.

“This collaborative investment aims to transform this region through significant greenfield development in tea. The partnership plays to our collective strengths – the quality focus of Luxmi, the venture philanthropic expertise of The Wood Foundation, and the support of the Government of Rwanda.

“In a short space of time, we are seeing incredible results that are truly sustainable and go far beyond the tea fields, empowering smallholder farmers and their communities.”

The Rugabano factory represents a public-private partnership between The Wood Foundation Africa and Luxmi, operating as a joint entity Silverback Tea, in collaboration with the Government of Rwanda.

The factory is supported by the Rugabano Services Company (ROS), a non-profit company that provides the necessary technical training, production logistics, and interest-free financing to assist smallholder farmers enter into the tea business, serving as the exclusive supplier of green leaf to the Rugabano factory.  ROS is a joint venture between The Wood Foundation Africa and Gatsby Africa, with additional support from the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

The Government of Rwanda has built a village which includes livestock near the site for 340 families who had been living in unsafe areas on the hillside. It has committed to building roads and other supportive infrastructure, as well as allocate more land to farming. The hillsides in the Karongi district are home to high altitude, acidic soils which struggle to grow most crops but are perfect for tea. The Government is encouraging local people to plant out tea and supply to the Rugabano Factory.

President Kagame’s speech to smallholders at the event highlighted the quality and taste of Rwandan tea, and reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to support the development of the industry for the benefit of smallholder farmers.

The Silverback Tea investment vehicle has invested $12m to date, and has committed up to $40m, to plant up to 400 Ha of tea at the industrial block, with 4,000 Has to be planted by ROS with the smallholder growers.

Luxmi Chairman Rudra Chatterjee shared his pride in the development of the site, as well as its other smallholder investments with The Wood Foundation at Gisovu and Pfunda. He discussed his ambition for Rwandan tea, praised the ‘exceptional’ partnership working, and thanked the country for its support of the industry.

The New Times created this video from the event.