Implementing and Sustaining Shade-Grown Coffee in Burundi and Rwanda: An Exchange of Traditions with Colombia and Ethiopia

Key Contact
Paola Agostini
Start Date
End Date
Funding Amount
$ 48,909
Knowledge-providing Countries
Knowledge-receiving Countries


In a strategy to strengthen the coffee sector in Burundi and Rwanda, both countries demonstrated interest in implementing shade-grown coffee programs that will promote sustainable economic development and redress land degradation. Putting in place such programs required increased stakeholder ownership and specific technical and organizational skills; Colombia and Ethiopia shared such experiences in knowledge exchanges with Burundi and Rwanda. 


With reliance on coffee as a major export, representatives of Burundi and Rwanda’s coffee sector are interested in promoting shade-grown coffee as a key component in strengthening the countries’ coffee sectors and moving toward ecological sustainability. In contrast to the current monoculture coffee plantation tradition, shade-grown (polyculture) coffee has been identified as an important land management practice. Among the environmental and social benefits of the shade-growing practice are reducing land degradation, providing alternative sources of income and food security, and enhancing resilience to climate change. Faced with a new model from their monoculture growing tradition, Burundi and Rwanda felt challenged by weak stakeholder ownership and limited awareness about the benefits of shade-grown coffee. The exchange with Colombia and Ethiopia enhanced organizational skills by giving the participants the opportunity to observe and discuss concrete experience and identify key incentives, tools and organizational arrangements to promote and sustain this type of polyculture cultivation.


The team that is involved in the GEF/World Bank-funded Burundi Sustainable Coffee Landscape Project initiated the exchange. Initially focusing on just Burundi, the team invited Rwanda to join the exchange since the countries share similar circumstances and interests.  The exchange began with a study tour to Colombia (January 27 – February 1, 2014). With its global reputation in the coffee sector, Colombia was an ideal knowledge provider. Specifically, the National Coffee Federation of Colombia presented examples of strong institutional structures and showcased a project that successfully incorporated sustainability and biodiversity in coffee landscapes. The study tour involved meetings in Bogota as well as visits to farms and research stations in Colombia’s main coffee region. The Colombian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the NGO CIPAV also provided key lessons on rural entrepreneurship and agroforestry.

A follow-up experts’ visit (September 6-19, 2014) took participants to the African countries’ research stations and coffee institutions. During the design of the experts’ visit, it was decided to include Ethiopia—the country where coffee originated—as another knowledge provider. The Ethiopian Jimma Agricultural Research Center hosted and shared lessons from years of coffee research.  The experts’ visit was preceded by workshops to share lessons learned with peers and identify key topics to include in the visit. The visit, which evolved into an impromptu field school, allowed the Colombian experts to better understand how their systems and knowledge could be applied to the local context and how local farmers and technicians can engage in detailed dialogue around specific experiences and technical improvements, and not just abstract concepts. 
After the exchange, Colombian experts shared written recommendations for Burundi and Rwanda and agreed to provide advice for a Manual of Shade Coffeeemanating fromthe Burundi project.


Survey results proved that the exchange raised awareness on the benefits of shade-grown coffee. Every surveyed participant indicated that they have received new, useful information and an increased belief in their ability to implement, conduct, and sustain a shade-grown coffee initiative. This was confirmed by the preparation of an action plan by the local team of the Burundi coffee project so to incorporate lessons learned into the project’s implementation. 
Direct beneficiaries of the exchange included farmers, technicians, policymakers, and producers from Colombia (4), Ethiopia (3), Burundi (10) and Rwanda (4).

In response to the post-exchange survey, one participant wrote: “This knowledge exchange was holistic, not only in its technical content and team composition but also in terms of exchange of cultural values and traditions….The participants represented all levels of the coffee lifecycle from growth to shelf (growers, extension workers, researchers, industry, and coffee federation staff). The field visits were adequate and relevant, thus stirring extensive informal discussions.” 

In addition, an informal community of practice has been created allowing for the participants from all countries to stay in touch and continue sharing information.   

Lessons Learned

  • This exchange had a good combination of technicians, decision-makers, policy-project formulators, and coffee growers.  Success is better achieved when the right mix of people is on board and willing to share, learn, and act based on the lessons learned.
  • The exchange was more useful due to its pairing with an ongoing project in Burundi and one in preparation in Rwanda in order to identify knowledge gaps and apply lessons learned.  If there is no current project, a future project might be identified. 
  • Knowledge exchanges can be expensive; a balance needs to be drawn on scope, participants, and extent of travel. The team had to raise significant amounts of cofinancing in order to be able to invite all the key stakeholders.  
  • Logistics for an exchange are considerable (even more in this case that had two instruments –study tour and knowledge exchange- and 4 countries) and can be a disincentive. Good planning was crucial and required full-time attention. 
  • There is never enough time for learning so the agenda should be planned to fulfill knowledge gaps but with flexibility to adapt to unexpected needs.  Particularly the agenda for the expert visit was developed and adjusted according to the expectations that resulted from the previous study tour.  

World Bank Group Contribution

The World Bank was the coordinator, being the point of contact between knowledge providers and recipients. The World Bank (Washington DC office plus five country offices teams), with the assistance of host institutions, arranged logistics. The World Bank was able to secure co-financing with TerrAfrica in Burundi (US$125,466) for the exchange since the resources from the SSKE Trust Fund (US$48,909) were not sufficient to cover the total financing needs of US174,375. 


The exchange benefited from the experience and knowledge of multiple organizations in each of the countries visited. As a group, the partners provided in-kind contributions (transport, time, food) and financial support for the participation of team members:

  • GEF/UNDP FNC Mainstreaming Biodiversity in the Coffee Sector in Colombia project. Implemented by the National Coffee Federation. Lessons from this project were shared at the Federation’s headquarters, farms, and research centers. 
  • World Bank (IBRD) Second Rural Productive Partnerships Project.  Implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development with support from various national NGOs such as

Codesarrollo. Lessons on rural entrepreneurship were shared at the Ministry’s headquarters as well as in coffee farms. 

  • GEF/World Bank, Integrated Silvopastoral Approaches for Ecosystem Management Project. Implemented by the Foundation Centre for Research in Sustainable Systems of Agriculture (CIPAV). The project concluded in 2007 but its results in agroforestry are still visible and were shared during the exchange. 


  • GEF/World Bank, Burundi Sustainable Coffee Landscape Project was directly linked with the exchange and was one of its main beneficiaries. The project shared developments on shade-grown coffee and financed the participation of some of its team members in the experts’ visit. This project is being implemented by Burundi’s Ministry of Water, Environment, Land, and Urban Planning.


  • GEF/World Bank, Landscape Approach to Forest Restoration and Conservation Project was the second main beneficiary of the knowledge exchange, implemented by the Rwanda Environment Management Authority.  

Moving Forward

After the exchange, the participants conducted workshops to share lessons with peers both in Rwanda and Burundi. The Colombian experts also gave presentations of their experience to peers within their organizations. One of these seminars was accessible via videoconferencing to the more than 1,500 men and women who are part of the coffee extension service group in Colombia. Lessons were also incorporated in an action plan to be part of the Burundi Sustainable Coffee Landscape project. In Rwanda, adaptive research has started to determine suitable polyculture settings, and technicians are advising farmers to plant shade trees. Communication among participants continues after the exchange. The Colombians have submitted recommendations to Burundi and Rwanda, and the two countries organized in April 2015, a follow-up visit by one of the Colombian experts. He provided specific advice on the implementation of shade-grown coffee and other sustainable agroforestry and silvopastoral systems. 
“Now it’s time to practice,” wrote one survey respondent. “The third phase must be to see what we have done in our respective areas.” 


  • Theopiste Nyiramahoro (President), Rwanda Coffee Cooperatives Union of Kirehe (UCOCAKI), was inspired and encouraged by the results seen in Colombia and is proud to see Rwanda’s progress. Given her position in the coffee cooperative, she has the possibility to spread the word and promote changes. “At home, I will mobilize the other farmers, so that they not only grow coffee but combine it with other crops in order to receive more benefits.” (translated from Kiyarwanda)
  • Gilbert Nduwayo (Head of the coffee research program), Burundi Institute of Agricultural Research (ISABU) is in charge of conducting research for the implementation of shade-grown coffee in the country. Experts provided advice for to the Manual of Shade Coffee that ISABU is producing under his leadership.  “I learned so much, I have many ideas to convince others to do shade-grown coffee, to do land management with connectivity, and to produce the shade-grown coffee guide that will inspire many others.”
  • Diego de Jesús Castaño (Extensionist), Colombian National Coffee Federation.  Translating his knowledge to a different context and witnessing different situations and realities, enriched his work back home. He was impressed by the role of women in the coffee value chain. “For me, it was very rewarding to meet other experiences and cultures. I rate this as an experience of great importance that allows me to learn and teach about the different ways of working” (translated from Spanish)”. Diego participated in a seminar organized by the Federation to share the exchange experience; the main speaker at the seminar was another exchange participant, Fernando Farfán (science investigator) from the National Federation of Colombian Coffee Growers.  This information was accessible via videoconference to more than 1,500 men and women part of Colombia’s extension service group.

“When I was in Colombia, I thought that ecological corridor was not possible in our country. But, with the exchange, I saw for the first time how other countries deal with biodiversity in the production system. The different advices received from Colombians and Dr Taye how me that it is really possible”. – Wrote a survey respondent. 

Learn More

TF015959 - Exchange of the Colombian Experience for a Sustainable Coffee Landscape in
Burundi and Rwanda Program: South-South Experience Exchange Facility

  • World Bank story in the AFR Sustainable Development new internal site,  “Colombia, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia: United by a Cup of Coffee”,,contentMD K:23548935%7EnoSURL:Y%7EpagePK:64168332%7EpiPK:64168299%7EtheSitePK:5287409,00.html

  • Article (Spanish) by the Colombian National Coffee Federation, February 3, 2014. obre_cafe_y_paisaje/

  • Article (Spanish) published in the Spanish “El Pais” newspaper, February 14, 2014.


1. Video:  Knowledge Exchange on Sustainable Coffee Landscape – TerrAfrica,  posted November 12,

2. Video:  South-South Knowledge Exchange on Coffee Landscapes – TerrAfrica, posted March 18, 2014.