We are over 3600 farmers from different ethnic groups in the Kivu Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, producing some of the finest coffee in Africa. After years of conflict and civil war, our Fairtrade-certified coffee promotes working together for a better future. We became the first cooperative in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to be Fairtrade-certified early in 2011. It is a very exciting time for us.
For the first time we are finding international buyers who want to know who we are, pay fair prices and form long-term relationships with our cooperative.
It is such a big difference to the desperate situation we have been in for many years – through civil war and conflict, we smuggled our coffee across Lake Kivu into Rwanda. We have sometimes sold it in exchange for soap and clothes. There was no recognition for quality and no interest in us. So many people have died in violence and drowning trying to sell coffee to keep their families alive.
Our communities are in need of many things – medical assistance, access to education, basic home improvements. It is heartening to feel that through the Fairtrade premium, we may be able to start addressing some of these. We received our first Fairtrade premium from our 2010 coffee harvest. Since we were only certified at the end of the harvest, our Fairtrade sales were minimal. Still it was with great excitement that our farmers decided how to spend the premium. We opted to purchase a roofing sheet for every farmer. During the rainy season, it can be a great challenge to keep our homes dry and felt this would help with a basic and immediate need.
We expect our 2011 Fairtrade premium to be significantly higher, and we look forward to planning strategically on how to invest it in our communities and cooperative organisation.
Cooperative or Membership Association, Fairtrade or Similar