one of the leading coffee co-operatives in north kivu
Partner since: 2015
The Kivu region of Eastern Congo once had a thriving coffee industry, but following years of civil war, today needs a development strategy to help producers fulfil their high potential and to improve farmers’ quality of life.
Coffee production was nationalised in the 1970s and grew successfully up to the early 1990s when DRC was producing 120,000 tonnes per year. Production dramatically declined during the two Congolese civil wars and it was reported in 2010 that the harvest was less than a tenth of what it was 20 years earlier.
Instability and a lack of export markets meant that farmers were forced to sell their beans in their raw state to be processed in neighbouring countries. The result was a huge loss in profits for farmers.
To help reignite the coffee industry in Kivu, the Kawa Kabuya Coffee Cooperative was established in 2010 to support coffee producers on Lake Eduard near Virunga National Park. To join, members were asked to contribute $50 to help build washing stations and buy necessary materials. Farmers were grouped around micro-washing stations that served up to 50 producers, whilst Kawa Kabuya took the lead in securing new international buyers for their processed coffee.
Securing working capital to fund the containers needed to export coffee is a huge challenge for cooperatives across Kivu. Interest on loans from national banks can reach 38%.
Since 2015, Ensemble has provided a recyclable loan to Kawa Kabuya to help fund their exports to European and US buyers.
Kawa Kabuya now exports 14 containers of coffee per year, thanks to the determination of its 2,500 members. Members of the cooperative saw their initial investment repaid within the first year of operations and their returns doubled within two years. This has had a direct impact on the ability of coffee growers to send their children to school.
In January 2018, the cooperative won the ‘Taste of Harvest’ competition for the best arabica coffee in the DRC. Their product now has a cupping score of 84, making it a speciality product. 64% of the price that Kawa Kabuya gets for its coffee goes back to products. The other 37% is used to pay taxes, milling costs and permanent staff within the cooperative. What remains is invested into the micro-washing station funds, which are used for maintenance and improvements.
Kawa Kibuya are dedicated to growing their business relationships as well as the reputation of Eastern Congo are a fertile source of high quality coffee. Increasingly they are collaborating with other coffee cooperatives in the region to attend industry events to raise awareness of Kivu coffee and this outreach is having a positive impact on operations. Kawa Kibuya is currently in discussions with investment banks in Europe about providing finance to help further scale their distribution operations.