The Café de Maraba washing station in Rwanda’s Huye province served as a mock-amphitheater this past week, host to the launching of the Black Earth Project. Funded by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and through partnership with Radio Lifeline, re:char trained twelve Rwandan coffee farmers and agronomists to be biochar ambassadors to 12,000+ growers across six represented cooperatives.
Over the course of their two day training, these farmers and agronomists went through practical and lecture style exercises preparing them to both explain and demonstrate biochar, its production, and its application.
All six cooperatives received complimentary kilns to be used for a number of purposes – most immediately to produce biochar for bean test plots.
Over the next three months Rwandan farmers will witness first-hand the benefits biochar provides to bean plants, ranging from improved nutrient availability to greater root nodulation. We expect to demonstrate both the potential to increase income and decrease input costs.
In October of this year, these cooperatives will plant similar test plots using coffee tree seedlings. Additionally, a side dressing of biochar will be amended to the soil of a select group of fully grown trees. Root growth, soil moisture, pH, carbon and NPK availability, coffee yield, and coffee quality will all be evaluated.
This project is laying the foundation not just for broad-ranging biochar use within Rwanda, but for biochar use within the entire international coffee industry.
The capacity of this project to expand biochar’s reach is driven by the unique combination of passion and technology. All involved have a demonstrated commitment to improving farmer livelihoods and promoting sustainable agriculture. This commitment, paired with the rapid scalability of re:char’s farm-level production technology and Radio Lifeline’s expansive radio communication network means big things are on the horizon.