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
This project is part of the following focus area:

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.


  • 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. Apart from the "fully washed" coffee, we experiment with "natural coffee" and "honey bean"
  • We increase the business capacities of four new cooperatives Kawa Kabuya, CPNCK (Kawa Kenja), Kawa Maber en Kawa Kanzururu so that they become reliable business partners for international buyers
  • We set up a small lab to be able to test and evaluate the quality of the coffee locally (coffee cupping), instead of having it sent to Europe. This way, the cooperatives will be able to better respond to the quality demands of the buyers.
  • We set up new systems to give the cooperatives access to credit: local banks are involved, social lenders, warranty funds, down payments / prefinancing by buyers, etc
  • Promotion of local coffee consumption

Kawa Kanzururu is the winner of the Taste of Harvest competition

25/01/2018 17:21

The results of the Taste of Harvest RDC 2018 competition have just been released.

Cooperatives supported by Rikolto in DR Congo achieved the top 3 scores. What an excellent result! Note that these are the only coffees that have earned the specialty coffee grade!

Congratulations to the farmers of Kawa Kanzururu, Kawa Maber and Kawa Kabuya!

The first processing factory installed on Idjwi island

01/06/2017 15:02

On the 28th of May 2017 the cooperative CPNCK has installed its factory in Lweza, on Idjwi. Present during the inauguration: the ambassador of Japan, the governor of the province of South Kivu, the deputy director of UNDP and a delegation of VECO DRC. In June the factory was also visited by the ambassador of Belgium. Everything is in place to turn this factory into a profitable business!

What a difference a year makes

30/09/2016 13:26

In January 2015 TWIN agreed to purchase a container of the coffees represented by the highest scoring type samples, from Kawa Maber cooperative in Ituri. Jennifer Roberts visited the coffee farmers while they were preparing the export of this very first container.

"Sometimes coffee can break your heart, but this month, it also gave us renewed encouragement and excitement to partner with communities and invest in their growth and improvement. Relationship coffee is about much more than just buying the fanciest lot. It’s about investing in mutual benefit through our favorite beverage."

Read Jennifer's full story...

Saveur du Kivu contest

26/05/2016 10:47

For the second time the coffee competition "Saveur du Kivu" ("Kivu Flavour") was organised in Bukavu from May 19th till May 21st 2016. Two cooperatives supported by VECO were laureates: Kawa Kabuya obtained the second place, and CPNCK the 5th place. Congratulations!

Belgian supermarket buys Congolese coffee

14/03/2016 10:28

Belgian supermarket Colruyt sealed a contract with Kawa Kabuya for one container of Arabica coffee. The loading of the container was finished in Butembo. With a bit of good will from the part of the governmental services responsible for exportation, the container can leave the country soon. The coffee will be available in the supermarkets from september on as a specialty coffee for Christmas.

Auditors share their findings and recommendations

09/02/2016 10:24

Accountants Christophe Nzalamingi and Gaëtan Lushavo of FIGEP shared their findings and recommendations of their audit with the management of the Cooperative Kawa Kanzururu and with the team of VECO. The management of an emerging cooperative offers many learnings, so the lessons from the first experience in collective selling are carefully examined to continually improve and expand the capabilities of the coöperatives as the volume of coffee increases. The road to financial independence is still long, but the first step is taken with determination.

Congolese coffee wins Taste of Harvest competition

18/01/2016 13:35

The jury has spoken. The winners of the Taste of Harvest 2016 competition, organized by the African Fine Coffee Association (AFCA) are known. Out of the 5 best rated Congolese coffees, 4 were produced by cooperatives that are supported by VECO DR Congo. Kawa Kabuya and Kawa Maber even took the first and second place. Congratulations to the farmers for this terrific effort!

New pulpers

30/09/2015 09:39

The deployment of new ecological pulpers is ongoing. Fiston is not only our driver and logistician, but also our expert technician installing and adjusting the machines. We wish the Cooperatives Kawa Kabuya, Kawa Kanzururu and Kawa Maber an excellent harvest for this main coffee season that is starting!

Exporting coffee the official way

12/09/2015 09:50

The first container of gourmet coffee of the young Cooperative Kawa Maber from Ituri just crossed the Congo-Uganda border near Mahagi, heading for the port of Mombasa.

The numerous state services have caused a delay of several weeks, as they had forgotten the procedure for an official export. The past 30 years, export was entirely in the hands of smugglers.

We will now carefully document the path of this first martyr-lot of coffee to show the authorities how they are part of the problem. We'll invite them to become part of the solutions.

20 new micro-washing stations

12/09/2015 09:47

The equipment for 20 new coffee micro-washing stations has just arrived in Butembo: depulpers, shade nets, etc. The new coffee season has just begun, so the equipment certainly doesn't come too early!


at least 7500 coffee farmers organised in 5 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 in Ituri, west of Lake Albert
  • SCPNCK Located on Idjwi Island in Lake Kivu.

  • Bblo Kawa In the region of Djugu in Ituri, west of Lake Albert

  • Farmer groups in the region of Rutshuru (not organised in cooperatives yet)

About 1/3 of them are women

Achieved results

Five coffee cooperatives are formed and legally registered: Kawa Maber and Bblo Kawa (Ituri), Kawa Kanzururu (Rwenzori), Kawa Kabuya (Beni-Lubero), SCPNCK (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 123 micro washing stations operational (April 2020, 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 5 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 4 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.

Additionally, the cooperatives have been making efforts to achieve access to more lucrative certified coffee markets by complying with the standards of multiple certification organisations. In collaboration with the University of Ghent in Belgium, Rikolto has studied the effects this has had on farmers, of which you can find the main conclusions in this interview.

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.

The cooperatives have better access to credit: e.g. Colruyt Group signed a three year contract to prefinance Kawa Kabuya

Processing factory installed on Idjwi island.

What are specific priorities for 2020 and 2021 ?

  • We expect a new coffee cooperative to be established in Rutshuru

  • Install a coffee lab in the offices of Kawa Kabuya, and train people in coffee cupping

  • Work towards organic and Fair Trade certification of the coffee cooperatives

  • Increase quality control and strengthen the business capacities

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
Programme coordinator coffee in DR Congo