Since 2006, RMT undertook ambitious goals of expanding the existing tea plantations, increasing tea production per hectare and improving overall quality of harvested tea leaves. Furthermore, RMT rehabilitated the existing factory to triple its processing capacity to 70 metric tonnes of tea leaves daily as well said Jean Damascène Gasarabwe, the Managing Director of Nyabihu Tea Estate.
Located in Nyabihu District of Rwanda’s Western Province, the estate currently manages 1,239 hectares of tea plantation and a tea factory that has the capacity of processing 70 tonnes of tea leaves per day from the factory expansion made in 2010.
RMT has been encouraging village tea farmers, grouped in Copthega tea cooperative, to increase productivity of their tea plantations. To this effect they have increased their area under tea from 31 hectares in 2006 to 122 hectares in 2017. Tea farmers from Rubaya – Nyabihu Tea Company possess 10% shareholding in the estates.
Gasarabwe commends the government offer of an additional 288 hectares, which will contribute in next coming years to tea crop increase.
“We started planting new tea bushes in 2009 with the new area of Gitwa with 80 ha and Mugogo with 39 ha. In 2012 Nyabihu expanded further its area under tea to Mabenga (173 ha), Muremure with 31 ha and Giciye expansion with 7 ha.
From April 2015 to May 2017, the new area of Gishwati with 288 ha was planted. We currently produce 5,700 tonnes of tea leaves annually and we want it increased to at least 7,500 tonnes in the next three years when the new plantations will enter into production,” he said.
Among other achievements, Nyabihu Tea Estate constructed the 15 kilometres feeder road that helps transport tea leaves to the factory.
Extension of the area under tea has provided employment to roughly 2,000 casual workers on a monthly basis, and permanent employment to 110 people, doubling the staff of 2006. The tea plantations have also helped fight soil erosion in the area because tea is grown on the hills while farmers grow other crops in the valleys.
The estate tea quality has also greatly improved since privatization the extent that Nyabihu scooped the award of the overall best black CTC tea at the 3rd East African Tea Convention and Exhibition held in Nairobi, Kenya in May 2017.
Nyabihu Tea Estate has received a number of international recognised certificates for compliance with international norms of food hygiene, sustainable agriculture, and clean farming that are ISO 22,000 Food safety and Rain Forest Alliance (RFA).