Smallholder farmers take full control of Mulindi tea factory

Monday April 11 2022
Tea pic

Five thousand smallholder farmers in Rwanda are now the owners of the country's largest tea factory. Picture: Cyril Ndegeya

By Xinhua

Five thousand local smallholder farmers have acquired full ownership of the country’s largest tea factory, Mulindi.

During the decade-long investment, the smallholder farmer co-operatives retained a 45 percent share in the factory. Mulindi is 100 percent supplied by the smallholders and produces up to 4 million kgs of manufactured tea, generating revenues of up to $9 million per annum.

The handover was done on March 28 at Mulindi Tea Factory in Gicumbi, during which shares were signed over by The Wood Foundation Africa and Gatsby Africa, investors who had acquired the company when it was privatised by the government 2012.

This is the first factory to be owned 100 percent by smallholder farmers in Rwanda. Ian Wood, executive chairman of The Wood Foundation, who attended the ceremony on behalf of the investors said they have handed over a well-established company to be run by small-holder farmers.

"It has been a matter of great pride and satisfaction for Lord Sainsbury and I to work with the tea farmers at Mulindi. It was difficult to begin with but with the investments and significant training programmes the farmers' performance and their income have greatly improved. We are pleased to be handing over a well-established successful company and will continue to provide some support for an interim period."

The Wood Foundation Africa and Gatsby Africa, through their investment vehicle, East Africa Tea Investments (EATI), acquired majority shares in the factory when GOR privatised it 10 years ago.


Since then, Wood Foundation has invested in modernisation of the factory, field expansion with high yielding clones and upgrading skills of farmers and local management. Tea is an important crop in Rwanda, responsible for national revenue of $93 million in previous financial year, engaging a direct workforce of 60,000 people and supporting the indirect employment of a further 200,000.

Smallholders dominate Rwandan supply of quality tea - the producer of some of the best black, CTC tea in the world due to its rich volcanic soil and unique climate.

Dr Gerardine Mukeshimana, Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources said the government values the critical importance of the small-scale tea farmers who represent 75 percent of the entire tea production in the country.

"To the farmers, I look forward to seeing continued growth at Mulindi, that the business maintains a high standard of professionalism and governance, and that it continues to act in the interest of its members. I pledge the continuous support of the Ministry in this regard."