Sopacdiis reviving the reputation of the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo for being a region which can produce outstanding washed Arabica coffees. For decades there had been no markets for farmers’ coffee and producres had no option but to take the dangerous smuggling route across Lake Kivu, bartering their coffee for food and everyday essentials. Others had been forced to flee their land due to the violent civil war. In 2004, a small group came together, inspired by the newly formed specialty coffee co-operatives in Rwanda and in 2008 they found their first specialty coffee buyer, Twin Trading. Twin Trading designed and obtained funding for a program to assist Sopacdi with business skills and to begin rehabilitating the farms and improving the infrastructure, including building the first new central coffee washing station in the country in over forty years. Since then, the momentum has been building. Today, Sopacdi has over 3,200 farmer members and they have recently achieved Fairtrade and organic certification. Sopacdi unites farmers from different ethnic groups – they speak Kirundi, Kihavu or Kinyarwanda – yet they are united in their vision to improve their families lives and communities through coffee.
Many of Sopacdi’s coffee farmers are widows, their husbands drowned smuggling coffee across Lake Kivu. Sopacdi has a system in place to have coffee grown, collected and accounted for by women. Importers pay a premium on this coffee and the premium is then used to fund women’s group in each sector. The Kalunga sector of Sopacdi has 642 members, of which 157 are women. In addition to funding projects run and organized by the women of the co-op, one of the most important facets of the women’s groups is to facilitate communication and transparent information for women in order to help them increase their participation in the co-op. Fitina Wabush, a 36 year old resident of the small village of Kairengel with 7 kids states of the imprtance of the group, “If I am sick I know have friends to call on to help me with my kids.” In addition to the basic support network the groups create, funds are used for regenerative economic activities. In Kalunga the group has opened a flour mill providing them with extra income. and other women’s groups have used funds to buy cattle or pigs or for microfinance funding.
Geographic Location: Located on the Bulenga peninsula of Lake Kivu, near the town of Minova -- Varietals: Arabica -- Altitude: 1400 - 2000 meters
Muungano means "togetherness" in Swahili, a perfect description of this emerging group of farmers who have joined together across communities after decades of conflict. DR Congo is home to many of the economic slaves of the world, both historically and today. A country the size of Western Europe, it has a population of 70 million, an average life expectancy of just 51 years, and an average income of only $200.
The very first contact with indigenous Congolese came with explorers who were determined to conquer the last impenetrable part of Africa. From Dr. David Livingstone to Belgium’s King Leopold II, countless individuals and groups have used the Congo as their personal playground of riches, taking advantage of the region’s vast store of natural resources. Rubber, ivory, and more recently minerals have been expropriated via systems of forced labor and massive human rights violations.
Coffee represents a sliver of hope for the DR Congo. Through coffee, it is hoped many local Congolese can begin to rebuild their communities following years of strife.
Geographic Location: Located in Kayanza - about half way down the Kivu Lake, in the town of Kiniziere -- Varietals: Bourbon -- Altitude: 1450 - 2000 meters