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. 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

Farmers

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 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.

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
Coordinator Coffee Programme in Eastern Congo