Internship Spotlight: Vincent Karenzi supports the coffee value chain in Rwanda

“I did two internships during my freshman and sophomore years, all office work and I thought I should do some field work; it became a great opportunity for me because I realized my new interests”, writes Vincent Karenzi Mulinda.

Vincent is a senior at Michigan State University. Studying Agribusiness Management and Environmental Studies, he has a strong interest in research and development work. Last summer, he traveled to Rwanda and interned on two projects: Africa Great Lakes Region Coffee Support Program and Rwanda Trading Company (RTC), a leading fully washed coffee exporter company, in Rwanda.

At RTC, he sought to understand the processing of coffee from the farm to washing stations. He was particularly involved in harvesting, transactions at coffee collection sites, reception at washing stations, floating, de-pulping, fermentation, grading and drying. He visited the largest and oldest washing station in Rwanda.

Vincent washing coffee beans in preparation for grading
Vincent washing coffee beans in preparation for grading

But the processes involved in exporting coffee does not end in the washing stations. Vincent soon moved to RTC’s headquarter in Kigali where he assisted in simultaneously building the company’s washing stations profiles and marketing of duty bags for green coffee exports. 

At the Great Lakes Region Coffee Support program, Vincent participated in the Michigan State-USAID project to eliminate Potato Test Defect (PTD), a defect that causes Rwandan Coffee to smell like potatoes. He spent the time improving his research skills through surveys in with 16 washing stations in four Rwandan Districts. Doing this required someone who speaks the local language and is able to conduct interviews with the washing station managers and then transcribe, translate, and transform them into useful data.

Through the project, he also learned the challenges facing the Rwandan Coffee sector and agriculture in general, correlating with his goal. “I envision my future working with farmers in the villages of East African countries, especially in Rwanda.”vincent-2

Vincent says this internship was a vital step in preparing for post-graduation. He anticipates that through the connections he made he will continue to work on the project after graduation. He sees networking as key. “Scholars who may want to do an internship after their junior year to something that correlates to their post-graduation plans.” He adds that future interns should network as much as they can, with people in the sector and institution where they intern.

MasterCard Foundation Scholars have a good spirit of sharing their achievements with the community. As a service engagement activity, Vincent visited his high school’s volleyball team. As a volleyball player, that was important for him to witness and celebrate the development of young players. He was able to share some tips and words of encouragement to them as they prepared for the high school championship.

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