Coffee changes lives.
It might sound like a stretch, but we see life-changing transformation taking place every single day in the hills of Cyimbili.
On the shores of Lake Kivu in Western Rwanda, the beautiful hills of Cyimbili were once home to one of Rwanda’s largest and most prominent coffee production plantations. With 24,000 plants, each producing about four pounds of coffee a year, Cyimbili provided sustainable jobs for many and stability for thousands in the community. Not only did it bring the people of Western Rwanda economic promise, its revenues continually offered hope to thousands of children and families who benefited from the school, church, and social services made available through its success.
But in 1994, everything changed.
The Rwandan Genocide forever altered the face of Cyimbili and the country of Rwanda when more than 800,000 people were killed in 100 days. As a result of the extreme violence and unrest, villagers found themselves with no clean water, electricity, sanitation, or access to basic needs like food and shelter. The village of Cyimbili was left nearly uninhabitable. Production at the once-thriving coffee plantation stopped entirely, and the village was left to ruin.
Hope had all but vanished.
Dr. Celestin Musekura knows firsthand. He attended high school in Cyimbili at the very school funded by the coffee plantation. The school and community gave new life and a future to Dr. Musekura. In response to the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, Dr. Musekura established ALARM, which works to develop servant leaders who reconcile relationships, thereby transforming war-ravaged communities in East and Central Africa. Three years later, Dr. Musekura experienced the horror of genocide when members of his own family, along with 70 members from his home church and village, were murdered in revenge killings. He watched as the country he loved and the places of his youth, like Cyimbili, fell into chaos.
But hope dies last.
In 2008, Musekura and ALARM, in partnership with the Association of Baptist Churches in Rwanda and Hope for a Thousand Hills, returned with an audacious dream—to rehabilitate the once-prosperous plantation back to its original form.
Today, Cyimbili Coffee Plantation is fully restored, operational, and buzzing with new life. There are more than 40,000 coffee trees and nearly 170 workers growing and harvesting coffee. With a new medical clinic, school, church, and two new water wells on site, there is once again hope in these hills. But, the work here is not yet done. We dream of the day Cyimbili is producing some of the world’s best coffee. More important, we dream of strong communities, transformation in the lives of everyday Rwandans, and hope for a sustainable future.
Twenty years ago we saw the complete destruction of a plantation and community. Today there is life again.
Can a simple cup of coffee change lives?
We sure think so. Just look to the hills of Cyimbili. They are full of hope.