INA in Rwanda: blockchain solution enables digital traceability for coffee grown by women
Since 2020, INA in Rwanda has been digitalising the supply chain of a speciality coffee that is cultivated solely by Rwandan women. These women have been producing their coffee for the German market for a long time, and yet consumers in Germany know hardly anything about the origins of the hot drink they enjoy every day. The global supply chains are usually not transparent, and the end product on the supermarket shelves tells consumers very little about the social, economic and environmental conditions in the country where the coffee is grown. INA is aiming to change this with the aid of blockchain technology. For the implementation on the ground, INA partnered with the International Women’s Coffee Alliance, Rwanda Chapter.
To ensure transparency along the entire supply chain, the INA project is developing a transferable, open source and blockchain-based traceability solution that documents the path taken by the coffee cherry from cultivation through to the finished product. For this purpose, all the details of the supply chain – such as the prices paid and the stakeholders involved – are stored digitally. When the product is purchased at the supermarket, this information can be viewed by scanning a QR code. The traceability process enables companies to identify deficiencies in the chain and determine where adjustments may be required, thus fulfilling their due diligence obligations. It also allows consumers in Germany to obtain important information with regard to sustainable shopping.
Coffee from Rwanda
Coffee is one of Rwanda’s main exports, and large quantities of it are sold to Germany. However, the coffee price is permanently low on the world market and subject to major fluctuations. Poor returns, high production costs and depressed prices mean that smallholder families struggle to make a living from coffee farming. Women are particularly affected by this. They carry out the bulk of the work in the coffee farming sector but at the same time suffer from a lack of co-determination rights.
The INA project is located in Rwanda’s volcanic mountain region. A large proportion of the rural population makes a living from producing the Arabica highland coffee. Six coffee cooperatives have joined forces to form the Rwanda Smallholder Specialty Coffee Company (RWASHOSCCO) which, as an autonomous and self-sufficient organisation, roasts and markets the coffee itself. Two of the cooperatives in RWASHOSCCO, Musasa and Koakaka, are solely women’s cooperatives.
Transparency in supply chains? Digital technology makes this possible
On behalf of the BMZ, the sector programme for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains and Standards (Programm Nachhaltige Agrarlieferketten und Standards, NAS) is developing a digitally supported traceability system in conjunction with a technology company in Rwanda. All the essential data relating to the coffee supply chain is stored on a blockchain, a decentralised and tamper-proof database.
Each female coffee farmer is given a digital ID with information on the production location of the coffee. This allows consumers to clearly see where their coffee comes from. The digital ID also enables further information to be accumulated on the blockchain, such as quantity, sale date and purchase price. Each additional transaction along the supply chain – such as when and where the coffee cherries are roasted – is also registered and documented in the system. This means everyone involved in the supply chain can access and publicise the relevant information on origin, quality, production processes, certificates and prices paid. In turn, the end consumers in the supermarket can view this information on their smartphones by scanning a QR code on the product packaging.
The INA project in Rwanda is a pilot project which demonstrates how the technology can be used in practice by implementing it in a typical, commonly found supply chain. The blockchain solution is freely available and can be replicated. As such, it complies with the Principles for Digital Development. This means the project can be transferred to any other agricultural supply chain and expanded in the Rwandan coffee sector.
„This system is great, it helps us to know all the information regarding women's coffee and facilitates our job.”
Blockchain technology for Angelique’s Finest: importance and project goal for the Rwandan coffee farmers
A crucial element of sustainable supply chains is fair remuneration for the mostly small-scale farmers at the start of the supply chain. The aim of the INA project is to include the female producers in value creation as fair and equal partners.
By making the coffee traceable, the market potential and thus the value of the product are substantially increased. This in turn boosts the income of the female coffee farmers. At the same time, the digital solution creates a basis for other services, such as financial products, which benefit the smallholder families. The women in Rwanda can decide for themselves where their coffee cherries are roasted. As a result, the project not only enhances women’s financial independence but also strengthens their decision-making power.
The increasing pace of digitalisation leads to inequality of opportunity and leaves certain sectors of the population, including women, at a disadvantage. They fail to meet the basic prerequisites, such as owning technical equipment or having the knowledge and experience required to use new technologies. To help tackle these issues, the INA project directly involves the coffee farmers in the digital transformation process. In line with the principle “Design with the User”, the INA project is working closely with the local women coffee farmers and with the RWASHOSCCO cooperative.
The blockchain has been developed – what happens next?
A second phase is planned which will involve scaling the solution and expanding it in various ways, such as by integrating other digital services, particularly e-commerce and payment systems. Would you, your organisation or your company be interested in taking part in the Rwanda project? Or are you interested in implementing a digital traceability solution for your agricultural supply chain? Feel free to contact us! INA welcomes fellow contributors.
ANGELIQUE’S FINEST speciality coffee brand
Would you like to try the coffee for yourself? Kaffeekooperative GmbH markets RWASHOSCCO’s coffee under the product name Angelique’s Finest. The QR code will soon be added to the packaging. Angelique’s Finest has a mellow sweetness combined with a touch of chocolate and a hint of citrus. It can be bought online from Kaffeekooperative and the dm online shop.
Further information is available on the RWASHOSCCO and Kaffeekooperative websites.