“My name is Marie Laetitia Kayitesire. I am a coffee farmer and this is my farm,” said Ms. Kayitesire with a large smile drawn on her face, while looking proudly at her big coffee plantation. 

Marie Laetitia planted the first coffee trees on her plantation in 1999 and today these trees are of the Arabica Bourbon variety. In 2003, with support from USAID, she secured an investment to build a coffee washing station capable of processing 450 tons of cherries per year from both the Sake Farm plantation and from the surrounding smallholder farmers.

Thanks to Marie Laetitia’s dedication and hard work, Sake Farm has become an important source of income for people in the surrounding area, both as a market for their coffee and by providing employment. Today, the smallholder farmers rely heavily on Sake Farm to provide information on improved agricultural practices.

Marie Laetitia was also supported by Sucafina, the International Trade Centre (ITC) and Jacobs Douwe Egberts (JDE). Back in 2017, the three entities launched a partnership that aimed at empowering woman coffee producers in Rwanda and strengthening their participation at all levels of the supply chain. Through JDE’s financial contribution, ITC and the Kahawatu Foundation (Sucafina’s Sustainability implementer) managed to improve the technical infrastructure at the plantation and its processing unit.

In addition to running Sake Farm, Ms. Kayitesire is also a board member of the Rwanda chapter of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) and a member of She Trades, ITC’s initiative to enhance the empowerment and competitiveness of women entrepreneurs.

“My advice for women entrepreneurs is to be committed, to think big, to like what you do. As women, we have to work hard. It’s our nature to think on the community,” she said. 

Ms. Kayitesire does not only represent herself but also all the strong and dedicated women out there, who are working hard every day to prove themselves and make a change.