Green Beans from The DR of Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Central Africa, is a country traumatized by decades of civil conflict. It is estimated that over 5 million people have lost their lives since 2000, with millions more displaced. The wealth of the country and the root of the conflict lies in its vast mineral deposits.
The development of the country has been held back by political instability, lack of infrastructure, deep-rooted corruption and a history of exploitation from both its colonial past and in more recent times, commercial exploitation in pursuit of its mineral wealth.
As with its neighbours, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda – coffee has come to represent a significant opportunity for economic regeneration and social impact.
Situated on the Equator, the DRC receives up to 2000mm of rainfall annually. This, combined with volcanic soils and high elevation, create the perfect conditions for cultivating coffee, especially on the hills and mountains surrounding Lake Kivu, in the East of the country.
In the 1970’s the DRC was one of the leading exporters of coffee in the world. Today, production stands at 10% of what it once was. Until recently, instability and poor infrastructure have limited farmer’s access to market. Until recently, farmers would have little option but to sell coffee to middle men, who would transport parchment across Lake Kivu in small boats at night into neighbouring Rwanda or Burundi. Many men have lost their lives on this perilous journey, drowning from capsized boats and bad weather.
Creating market access for Congo’s smallholders is key to ensuring the flow of revenue back to the country. Increased income for farmers will mean greater investment in improving yields and quality, helping to drive prices to more sustainable levels.