Sorwathe is the largest tea factory in Rwanda, producing 80% of tea that is mostly exported. It produces black tea, green tea, white tea, authentic tea and organic tea. The Annual production is around 3 million kilos of Black Tea which is 15% of Rwanda’s production.
Sorwathe is located in Rwanda’s North Province, about 70 Kilometers north of the capital Kigali. The rural area surrounding Sorwathe is very hilly and densely populated. As a result almost all the tea is planted in the valley in a drained swamp.
As the largest tea production company, it exerts efforts to support adult literacy; worker association and collective bargaining rights; lead the industry in advancing the abolition of child labor; undertake sustainable forestry and water management; and produce socially and environmentally responsibly grown high quality tea.
Following these efforts, this September 21, 2012, the U.S. Department of state announced that Sorwathe is among the top eleven finalists who have been selected for the Secretary of State’s prestigious 2012 Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE).
The award comes after finalist recognized the vital role that U.S. businesses play abroad as good corporate citizens that promote sustainable development and support local community needs in the countries where they operate.
The winners will be announced at the annual ceremony hosted by the Secretary of State on November 28, 2012.
Sorwathe is currently the only ISO 22000:2005 and FairTrade certified; Ethical Tea Partnership participant and RBS (Rwanda Bureau of Standards) product certified. It is also ISO 9001:2008 certified
The rural area around Sorwathe is very densely populated as most areas in Rwanda seem to be. Most villagers practice subsistence small scale farming on plots averaging half an hectare. Crops mostly grown are bananas, maize, beans and sweet potatoes.
Tea growing in Rwanda started in 1952. Since its introduction, tea production has increased steadily, from 60 tons of black tea in 1958, to 1,900 tons in 1990, to 14,500 tons in 2000, reaching a peak of 17,800 tons in 2001 and to 30,500 tons in 2005. Rwanda tea is planted on hillsides at high altitude (between 1,900 and 2,500 m), and on well drained marshes at an altitude of between 1,550 and 1,800 m.
In 2007 Sorwathe produced 3.66 million kilos of Black Tea. The tea plantation is located in Kinihira which is down a 19km reasonably well-maintained dirt road. Turn right a couple of kilometres after Nyirangarama and follow the signs.
Other company’s achievements include: being the first to build a New Orthodox Tea Factory in Rwanda which is automated and could manufacture and Orthodox and Green Tea as well as converting 116 hectares of tea into Organic Tea which is another first in the Tea Industry of Rwanda.
Tea Tourism is another of its projects and it has Guest House with a panoramic view. It has introduced field and factory tours to those who are interested in learning more about Tea.
At the beginning of 2010, Sorwathe was also adjudged as “Investor of the Year for 2009” at the prestigious Rwanda Development Board awards.
This award which many aspire to achieve was based on the profitability, forward and backward linkages with local Small Micro-Economic businesses (SME’s), job creation, demonstration of Innovation and Technology transfer, Corporate Social Responsible projects, being a role model and reinvestment into business to sustain growth.
“In addition to this main award we were placed as second runner-up in the “Exporter of the year-2009” category.”
During the 1990-1994 civil war, rebels had broken down the company’s tea processing factory and had stolen vehicles, office furniture and computers. OPIC’s payment of four political violence claims for losses totaling nearly $250,000 encouraged Tea Importers like U.S.A to stay and rebuild. Shaken but determined, Sorwathe was the first tea factory to resume production after the war.
The green leaves of the tea bushes are harvested all through the year but production peaks during the rainy seasons and is less during the dry seasons. OCIR-Thé is a State agency in charge of the tea sector. It was originally set up as an agency directly responsible for the production processing and marketing of Rwanda tea.
The Secretary of State has awarded the ACE since 1999 to recognize American companies that are leaders in socially responsible activities and contribute to the overall growth and development of the local economy in which they work.
The Department of State is committed to working with businesses to further these best practices worldwide and to recognize efforts to improve lives at home and abroad.
Sorwathe is Rwanda tea Production Company that is able to induce socio-economic development of Rwandan communities especially Tea growers and the company’s employees and it makes the country’s income growing considerably due to its high quantity exported with good quality.