Students team with Rwanda peers as coffee consultants

Rwanda studentPULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University students are serving as consultants to Starbucks and other coffee companies as part of a two-year international development project. It aims to provide hands-on learning and career opportunities in agribusiness for Rwandans – and especially for women.

Colleen Taugher, with WSU International Research and Agricultural Development, works with Rwanda’s coffee sector to develop economic questions from real problems the businesses are facing. These challenges are presented to students in a competitive process.

Three students selected from WSU team with peers from Michigan State University and the University of Rwanda in the spring to do preliminary research using existing demographic data. In May, the Americans travel to do field work with their Rwandan partners in that country.

A WSU student team member with coffee beans in Rwanda.

They conduct interviews and activities to collect data. They finish by writing a position paper that is presented to coffee-industry partners.

“The students are acting as ‘consultants’ for their ‘client’ in the coffee sector,” Taugher said.

In addition to Starbucks, she works with such companies as U.S.-based Rogers Family Roasters and Westrock and Rwanda’s Rwacof, KZ Noir, Rwanda Trading Company and more.

The development project is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. This spring will be the last program subsidized by the grant with Michigan State, but the partners are looking for funding to support the project in the future, Taugher said.

The project is developing a master of science in agribusiness at the University of Rwanda with a special focus on opportunities for women. Read more at