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Kula Project: Business Accelerator for Rwandan Coffee Farmers

Our mission is to develop and empower entrepreneurs in rural Rwanda because we believe charity will not eradicate poverty, business will.

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

We believe charity will not eradicate poverty, business will. The Kula business accelerator develops entrepreneurs through a 15-month fellowship that provides industry training, business investment, and life & leadership skills. This development empowers families to invest in the next generation. Kula was founded on the belief that communities should be heavily involved and listened to in the development process, that good, empowering work is relationship-reliant, and that nothing will last if it isn't community-owned and sustained. We see the families we work with as entrepreneurs, not just coffee farmers: entrepreneurs that, given the correct training and resources, have the potential to prosper and bring that prosperity to their children. The Kula Business accelerator is a 15-month curriculum, starting with an Assessment Phase where we get to know, understand, and build relationships with the people we are working with. The next phase is Industry Training in which each partner goes through intensive farm training and receives necessary farm inputs, followed by one-on-one farm visits and technical assistance to ensure their coffee businesses are as healthy as possible. This phase is followed by the Life & Leadership Skills phase in which we provide in-depth training and one-on-one monthly mentorship to partners and their families to focus on areas of financial, livelihood, & community wellness, as well as their coffee cooperative leadership. Subsequently, our partners enter into the Business Investment phase where they have the opportunity to learn about business development as well as submit business plans for investment to either scale their current businesses or start new, supplementary ones. Finally, the program ends with the Measurement & Evaluation phase in which we evaluate & understand each of the fellows through a multi-faceted survey to know how they and their families have progressed financially, physically, socially, and psychologically.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries are 300 coffee farmers and their families in rural Rwanda who work inter-connectedly with each other through coffee cooperatives and the land from which their coffee farms grow.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Our idea's uniqueness lies in the foundation for not only this program, but all of our work: listening to and building real long-term relationships with the communities we partner with. We’re playing the long game because simple solutions don’t fix complex issues, and the people who are directly affected should be directly tied to every part of the development process. The conversations and dreams that built this idea started in the hills of Rwanda, sitting under banana trees in community meetings and in the homes of our families. We developed this program based on the challenges they spoke of and the solutions they dream will solve them. We visit our families often, we know their names, their stories, and the dreams they have for the future. And, throughout our business accelerator, each and every family will be paired with one of our Rwandan social workers/mentors in a mentoring relationship because we believe succeeding has to start with the belief that you can in the first place.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Kula Project empowers coffee farmers to invest in the futures of their families.

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

After our founders spent several months in East Africa, they realized that poverty wasn’t a lack of money, it was a lack of access. They met women doing everything they could to have successful businesses but because they didn’t have the right resources or connections, their businesses would never succeed. They wanted to start something that would bridge that gap, and found that a place where Kula could have a great impact was in coffee.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Our project is centered around bridging the prosperity of our partners with informed respect for the planet. Because all of our beneficiaries are coffee farmers, their wellbeing is directly tied to the wellbeing of the planet. Statistics show that if sustainability of coffee production isn’t improved upon, at least half of the currently suitable coffee farming lands will be unable to produce coffee by 2050 and we believe bridging these two issues starts on the farm-level. Our project works to provide the necessary tools, equipment, and training to equip our partners with the best practices and techniques for coffee farming. This will not only to create more sustainability for their businesses, but also for the land on which their businesses depend. That means, our farmers will be able to create prosperity for themselves and their families while both navigating changing environmental conditions and being a part of the sustainable solution.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

In Rwanda, rural businesses are typically organized within the cooperative structure. We will work directly through two coffee cooperatives for this project, working alongside both the leadership and the people. We have spent significant time building relationships with both cooperatives and their members and will continue to involve them throughout the process of the project. Our mentors, farm trainers, and life & leadership skills trainers are all Rwandans who are experts in their fields and will be employed to train and holistically empower our families. We believe relationships should be at the heart of all community development, and every step of our work, from the community meetings to home visits to our focus on mentorship & impact measurement, reflects that.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

The people and communities we work in are truly special. We as a team have never seen a people with a greater desire to make things better and to be a part of the solution. Their willingness and eagerness to learn and grow and improve, fueled by their constant higher motivation of the dreams they have for their children are two of the countless strengths they have. We believe in them, and based on our experience, we can promise you they won’t let you down.

Geographic Focus

Rwanda, in the Eastern and Northern Provinces

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

15 months

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


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Photo of Waddah Fadul

Great idea, all the best

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