Arabica coffee production in DR Congo is facing serious difficulties, caused by climate change and low prices on the world market. Farmers depend on intermediaries who sell their coffee, who offer no services in return and credits at extremely poor rates. As a result, coffee farmers are struggling to survive. Besides, the over-taxation compared to neighbouring countries has led to a drop in export via official channels to only 1/10 of the capacity. Rikolto’s programme supports coffee producers to establish quality coffee processing cooperatives and connects them with gourmet coffee buyers.
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
Five coffee cooperatives are formed and legally registered: Kawa Maber and Bblo Kawa (Ituri), Kawa Kanzururu (Rwenzori), Kawa Kabuya (Beni-Lubero), SCPNCK (Idjwi island). We also support farmer groups in the region of Rutshuru to organise into a cooperative.
Every farmer that became a member of one of the 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 over 123 micro washing stations operational. There are 5 staff per operational washing station (responsible for post-harvest treatment and quality control), creating in total 520 new jobs as of April 2020. 27 staff are working for the cooperatives.
Farmers now have 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.
A processing factory installed on Idjwi island.
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
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)