Flooding and landslides devastate Nyabihu, Rwanda coffee farmers

On 7 May 2020, devastating rains, flooding, and heavy mudslides hit the Nyabihu District in northern Rwanda. Nyabihu is home to the families that produce the popular Shyira and Vunga coffees.

Social coffee enterprise Raw Material is deeply saddened to report that 28 members of these communities lost their lives in the flood. Physical losses include at least 325 homes, livestock, coffee trees, and other crops. Vital community and utility infrastructure was destroyed, including 36 classrooms, 12 churches, a healthcare centre, the Vunga market, and electrical and water supplies.

“These floods and mudslides were the worst catastrophic event in our lifetimes. Twenty-eight people lost their lives. Almost everyone in Nyabihu is affected; houses, roads, bridges, crops in fields, and animals were all impacted,” says Evariste Hagumimana, Manager of Shyira coffee washing station.

Over the past two weeks, coffee production managers have visited more than 200 families that deliver coffee to the Shyira and Vunga washing stations, to gather information on how they have been directly affected. The preliminary report details this subgroup’s direct losses incurred so far, at an estimated rebuild cost of US$132,000 (about $190,000). With average local incomes being less than US$700 (about $1000) per annum, this is a crippling figure.

Raw Material and Muraho Trading Co have launched a joint effort campaign to raise funds for the relief effort through GoFundMe.

“The government is working to the best of its capability to restore major infrastructure. Further support is needed on a more personal level to ensure families can recover and meet longer-term needs,” Matt Graylee of Raw Material says.

Raw Material says support for Nyabihu’s coffee producers is critical. The average producer in the region relies on coffee for 65 per cent of their household income. This is on top of the impact of COVID-19 that was already reducing the prospective earnings for farmers this year.

All funds generated will be used in three targeted phases: Initially in response to immediate needs (food, water, clothing), and secondly to rebuild and recover homes, crops, and livestock. Finally, to build resilience to future climatic events.

“Every single donation will not only help the families of Nyabihu right now but will help to mitigate the cycle of these disasters through careful investment in resilience practices,” Matt says.

Visit the GoFundMe page HERE.

Raw Material and Muraho are working in coordination with the Shyira sector office of the local government to ensure funds are directed to where they are most required.

For more information, contact Matt Graylee on matt@rawmaterial.coffee

Image: Raw Material – Flood damage at Shyira coffee washing station, May 2020.jpg

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