Speciality coffee from Kivu and Ituri, DRC

Speciality coffee from Kivu and Ituri, DRC

Small-scale coffee farmers prepare to export high quality organic Arabica coffee.
Congolese coffee is so rich of flavour. You will become addicted to it.
Kisumba Kamungele
President of AFCA in RDC
Kisumba Kamungele

The demand for quality coffee is growing worldwide, but coffee production is at risk. Rising temperatures, extreme weather and pests are threatening the cool mountainsides which this high-altitude, bean-based crop needs to flourish.

Arabica coffee production in the DRC is facing serious difficulties, caused by low prices on the world market. They depend on intermediaries who sell their coffee without offering any services in return. Many coffee farmers are exploited by these intermediaries who offer credits for the latest coffee crop at extremely poor rates. As a result, coffee farmers are struggling to survive.

Moreover, there is a severe over-taxation compared to neighbouring countries and systematic complicity of certain state departments in the fraudulent export of Congolese coffee. The volume of coffee exported via official channels has fallen to 1/10th of the capacity. On top of this, the coffee does not have a good reputation and producers of quality coffee are not rewarded appropriately because they do not have direct access to the international market.

Our programme supports coffee producers to establish quality coffee processing cooperatives and provides connections with gourmet coffee buyers. These cooperatives are built around micro-washing stations, each serving one hundred members with plots in the vicinity. Each micro-washing station is a section of the cooperative.

Challenges

  • Some farmers only manage to produce 250kg per hectare, when the yield could reach 2000kg. Low productivity puts the survival of the coffee production at risk
  • Coffee quality is low; both pre-harvest and post-harvest practices fail to improve the quality of the coffee plants.
  • No central processing unit for the coffee beans, leading to low quality coffee beans. Each farmer processes the coffee on their own farm (farm-washed coffee) which produces a coffee supply of varying quality.
  • The only remaining coffee factory in South-Kivu works at low capacity due to the irregular supply of coffee beans. Farmers are not encouraged to sell regularly because they do not have sale agreements for export.

Our strategies

  • Rikolto wants to improve productivity by planting new coffee trees. The most suitable coffee varieties are grown in tree nurseries and distributed to the farmers.
  • We introduce Good Agricultural Practices that aim to reduce the negative effects on the environment (soil, water, pesticides, etc.). For fertilization, local compost based on coffee pulp and other ingredients is used
  • We set up Farmer Field Schools to transfer knowledge about increasing production from farmer to farmer.
  • We build Washing stations in both North-Kivu, South-Kivu and Ituri which are each managed by 100 farmers. In this way, coffee can be washed centrally and variations in coffee quality can be avoided.

  • We increase the business capacities of four new cooperatives Kawa Kabuya, CPNCK (Kawa Kenja), Kawa Maber en Kawa Kanzururu so that they become reliable businesspartners for international buyers

Farmers

at least 4800 coffee farmers organised in 4 Farmer Organisations:

  • Kawa Kabuya Based in Beni and Lubero, west and north of Lake Edouard
  • Kawa Kanzururu In the region of Beni, Ruwenzori, west of the la Lune mountains
  • Kawa Maber In the region of Mahagi and Djugu in Ituri, west of Lake Albert
  • CPNCK/Kawa Kenja Located on Idjwi Island in Lake Kivu.

About 1/3 of them are women

Achieved results

Four coffee cooperatives are formed and legally registered (2014): Kawa Maber (Ituri), Kawa Kanzururu (Rwenzori), Kawa Kabuya (Beni-Lubero), CPNCK (Idjwi island).

Every farmer that became a member of one of the four coffee cooperatives, contributed $50 in cash or in kind for building materials and labour for constructing a micro-washing station, while the programme has helped by providing equipment (pulper, mesh, shading net, polythene sheeting for shed roof, hygrometer, etc.)

There are 103 micro washing stations operational (June 2017, not all indicated on the google map yet) and another dozen in preparation. There are 5 staff per operational washing station (responsible for post-harvest treatment and quality control), creating in total 520 new jobs. 27 staff are working for the cooperatives.

Easy access to new coffee plants, leading to the renewal of the plantations. The productivity has increased: the volume of 4 cooperatives increases every season.

The quality of the coffee has significantly improved, and the coffee cooperatives won a lot of awards. Consequently, the income of farmer families has doubled to tripled the 1,5 years of the project. Many farmers indicate that they can now easily pay for the school fees of their children. There are less exclusions of poor kids from schools.

The workload of women has diminished a lot: they no more need to do home processing. Quite some men have ceded a significant part of their coffee plantation to their wives, leading to more economic independency for women.

All 4 government services controlled by the Ministry of Finance had to decrease payments for services from several % down to 0.25% of FOB value. Only one of them (DGDA) has applied the new tax policy.

Processing factory installed on Idjwi island.

Kawa Kabuya is the most successful cooperative. In 2017 they exported 14 containers of quality coffee to multiple buyers.

What do we expect to achieve by 2021 ?

  • Increase the average productivity from 0.5 T/ha to 1 T/ha by produce and distribute 9 million coffee seedlings grown in tree nurseries
  • Good agricultural practices promoted in Farmer Field Schools
  • 80% of all coffee produced will be treated in the washing stations and achieve a high quality
  • Market conditions will improve:
  1. By the end of the project the coffee cooperatives will have sold 20 containers of high quality coffee
  2. The four cooperatives Kawa Kabuya, CPNCK (Kawa Kenja), Kawa Maber en Kawa Kanzururu are reliable businesspartners for international buyers
  3. All cooperatives obtained organic and Fair Trade certification
  • A new coffee cooperative will be established in Rutshuru

  • Install a processing factory in the areas where it's economically viable

  • Make all micro-washing stations and cooperatives function as independent businesses (so that they can pay their staff without grants etc.)

Long-term results

Structural changes in the national politics regarding coffee and the restructuring of the coffee chain at national level through the National Confederation of Agricultural Producers of Congo (CONAPAC)

Leopold Mumbere
Leopold Mumbere
Coordinator Coffee Programme in Eastern Congo