Last week, Tom Van den Steen, Rikolto's Programme Advisor Planning, Learning & Accountability, visited coffee cooperative Kawa Kanzururu, engaging with over 600 coffee farmers on their experiences selling coffee to international buyers. What follows, is a write-up of the insights he gained and the challenges he encountered while implementing the Inclusive Business Scan in Eastern DR Congo.
On implementing the Inclusive Business Scan in Eastern Congo
Implementing the Inclusive Business Scan in Eastern DR Congo is ...
… heading out with a team of 13 passionate students of the Université Catholique de Graben and Université Chrétienne Bilingue du Congo to engage with more than 600 coffee farmers on their experience of selling coffee via the Kawa Kanzururu cooperative to international buyers: do they consider this collaboration worth the effort (more than selling their coffee to Ugandan smugglers)? Does the cooperative provide relevant, good quality services? Are farmers engaged in the management of the cooperative and the micro washing stations? How loyal are the members to their cooperative? To which extent is the cooperative able to find the best markets for their coffee?
… traveling for an hour by car and another hour and a half on the back of a motorbike on a dirt track – at times invisible by bushes 2 metres high, other times almost impassable because of the mud - to reach the most distant micro washing stations of Kawa Kanzururu, on the fertile slopes of Mount Rwenzori. Such a journey also provided us with a humbling reality-check: being the only access route, this is how coffee travels from the micro washing stations to the cooperative’s warehouse; this is how farmers and their families access – in good and bad health – public services they can’t enjoy in their villages. The resulting soar bum and joints sharpened our ears and allowed us to connect on a more human level to the farmers’ stories and dreams.
… discovering the power of the Inclusive Business Scan to make complex, human relations and perceptions tangible. There is no camouflaging: it takes time and effort to understand how SenseMaker works and the enumerators were unfamiliar with the realities behind several concepts of the signification framework. However, the farmers rejoiced at the opportunity to share their thoughts on the cooperative’s inclusive business model and the questions resonated well with their day-to-day experiences – to the relief of many an enumerator, who could focus instead on collecting up to ten stories a day in the shade of the micro washing stations. Colleagues also bumped onto inspiring ideas as farmers shared frustrations and aspirations regarding topics they would otherwise rarely have the opportunity to engage with on such a scale.
… bursting out in incessant laughter for twenty minutes in a row during the ride back home, for the joy of laughing and cracking jokes. Surely, it also helps to wash away the many challenges that present themselves on this side of the globe: increased tensions and insecurity that forced us to change cooperative two weeks before the data collection; shoddy (and at times completely inexistent) internet connection preventing us to upload the stories or download the last version of the survey on our tablets; printing hundreds of paper copies single-handedly because the heat makes the pages stick together and it is the best printer on offer.
… looking forward to making sense of the data together with the cooperative and its members, engaging them collectively in the future of Kawa Kanzururu as the cooperative readies itself to become a self-reliant, profitable business actor that improves the livelihoods of hundreds of coffee farmer families, boosts the local economy and powers your day with unrivalled Eastern Congolese coffee.