Get Your Hands Dirty This Earth Day!

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND, April 19, 2021 – This Earth Day, we are highlighting one of our sustainability initiatives at origin. Sucafina Rwanda (RWACOF), The Bug Picture, and COPED are transforming coffee and food waste into an environmentally-friendly organic fertilizer. This fertilizer will help improve yields and coffee quality while also supporting the production of more sustainable and affordable livestock feed. And what's Sucafina's secret ingredient? Bugs!

Why Fertilizer Matters

Sucafina Rwanda’s new partnership with The Bug Picture and COPED (one of Rwanda’s largest municipal waste managers) is making affordable, environmentally-friendly fertilizer accessible to coffee producers and is helping to save on landfill space.

Coffee producers in Rwanda face an uphill battle against nutrient-poor soil, older rootstock, and a lack of inputs. While chemical fertilizers can increase coffee yields, they have several drawbacks. Since they don’t make soil healthier, farmers need to buy and reapply fertilizer each year. Additionally, chemical fertilizers are typically designed as a one-size-fits-all solution with just a few formulas sold to producers across the world. Rwandan soil is highly acidic and tends to have very little binding agent, so many commonly used fertilizers simply run off during the first rain. A cost-effective solution specifically designed for Rwandan requirements is needed.

At the same time, Rwanda’s growing population is producing more waste, and landfills are expanding, taking up what would otherwise be arable land. Finding a solution that reduces the amount of waste ending up in landfills while maximizing production on existing cropland is essential. That’s where our partnership with The Bug Picture and COPED comes in.

Bugs + Waste = Fertilizer

Black soldier fly larvae spin waste into fertilizer gold: they can consume large amounts of organic waste (including coffee pulp) very quickly. Our new facility is located in Bishenyi at one of COPED’s landfills. The landfill takes in up to 1.5 tons of organic waste every day, covering significant tracts of what would otherwise be arable land. With the new program, food waste is kept separate and, instead of adding to the landfill’s growing bulk, it’s mixed with coffee pulp from Rwacof’s washing stations, and treated with the larvae, which can transform it into nutrient-rich compost in as little as 10 days.

We expect production of around 11 tons of low-impact, high-yield, ‘bug-powered’ bio-fertilizer per month. In addition to being cheaper and more environmentally friendly, this innovative bio-fertilizer is designed with the specific needs of Rwandan soils, and farmers, in mind. The formula our partners and we are currently producing is the result of comprehensive research and collaboration with organizations and local governments to find the ideal balance of the nutrients plants need – nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. We will continue experimenting with additional formulas, and eventually, as we scale up, we will offer several options for farmers, all tailored to their soil and climate.

This new fertilizer is better suited for Rwandan soils and an economically viable alternative to other widely used chemical fertilizers, which often cost at least $10-15USD per bag. Sucafina Rwanda is committed to distributing their new fertilizer at cost, and currently, it costs $5 to produce one 25-kilogram bag. The average farmer needs eight bags per year.

As an added benefit, the production process also addresses food insecurity and the environmental footprint of animal feed production. Once they’ve transformed waste into fertilizer, the black soldier fly larvae are recycled into alternative protein that can be added to animal feed, replacing soy and fish protein additions. So, in addition to helping coffee farmers, the project also reduces the environmental footprint of animal rearing and helps local livestock farmers, as well. 

Spreading the Love (and Fertilizer)

To help kickstart this innovative project and celebrate Earth Day 2021 on April 22, we will be making a donation to the project based on sales of coffee made from Monday, April 19 to Friday, April 23, EOD. You can also get involved by donating to the project directly. Sucafina SA will match all donations made from 19 to 23 April.