Foundation plays role in returning tea factory to Rwandans


Alliance magazine


Five thousand smallholder farmers in Rwanda are now the owners of the country’s largest tea factory, after a years-long process that began a decade ago when the Rwandan government first privatised it.

The Wood Foundation and Gatsby Africa had previously acquired majority shares in the Mulindi Tea Factory, through their investment vehicle East Africa Tea Investments (EATI). Since then, the Wood Foundation has invested in the modernisation of the factory, field expansion with high yielding clones, upskilling farmers and local management, Chairing the Company Board, providing corporate governance support, and diversifying the end market base into premium and niche markets.

At the end of March, EATI handed the shares of Mulindi Tea Factory back over to Rwandan farmers. This is the first factory to be owned 100 per cent by smallholder farmers in Rwanda.

‘This is a historic event for the Mulindi tea farmers, and I am so happy to see this empowerment at the rural level,’ said Dr. Gerardine Mukeshimana, Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources in Rwanda.

Tea is an important crop in Rwanda, responsible for national revenue of $93 million in 2020, engaging a direct workforce of 60,000 people and supporting the indirect employment of a further 200,000.

During the decade-long investment, the smallholder farmer cooperatives retained a 45 per cent share in the factory. Mulindi is 100 per cent supplied by the smallholders. It produces up to 4 million kgs of manufactured tea and generates revenues up to $9 million per annum.

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