Portland Mayor Michael Brennan has presented the President of the Burundi chapter of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) Isabelle Sinamenye with a key to the city. Sinamenye was welcomed to Portland in a celebration that brought together members of Portland’s Burundi community, reconnecting some that hadn’t seen each other for more than 20 years.
Sinamenye was praised for the work she does for the IWCA, which involves training, educating, and empowering coffee farmers in the Southeast African nation of Burundi. Sinamenye has been instrumental in overseeing a program that ensures IWCA members receive an increased portion of the profits made from their coffee once it is sold. The IWCA program also teaches farmers about organic and fair trade certifications and the importance of gender equality in the coffee farming industry. Since its formation in 2011, the Burundi IWCA chapter has grown from 40 initial members to nearly 800 people. The farmers have used the profits their membership has helped deliver to purchase bikes for transportation, pay off debts, and reinvest in crops. Sinamenye was welcomed to Portland with a performance from local Burundian drumming group Batimbo Beats. The group performed outside Coffee By Design’s(CBD) Diamond Street location. The audience also heard from CBD owner; Mary Allen Lindemann, founder of BD Imports; Phyllis Johnson, Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project; Sue Roche and President of the Burundi Community Association in Portland; Alain Nahimana, who was a student of Sinamenye’s when she taught biology in Burundi. In 2014, Sinamenye’s chapter competed in the prestigious Cup of Excellence competition and placed second and twentieth out of 27 top lots. Coffee By Design, a Maine owned and operated coffee company with more than 450 locations, purchased almost an entire lot of the Burundi Kayanza Bourbon. Image from Coffee By Design.