Sopacdi Coffee Cooperative, Democratic Republic of Congo

SOPACDI Cooperative, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

DRCmapSopacdi Coop is composed of approx. 5,600 farmers from different ethnic groups (Kirundi, Kihavu and Kinyarwanda) living in the Kivu Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, who have come together "after years of conflict and civil war, our Fairtrade-certified coffee promotes working together for a better future".

Nine years ago, a small group came together, inspired by the newly formed specialty coffee co-operatives in Rwanda and talked about doing the same. In 2008 they found their first specialty coffee buyer and since then, the momentum has been building. Muungano and Furaha co-operatives are also now gathering strength, their members heartened by the success of Sopacdi.

Many of Sopacdi’s coffee farmers are widows, their husbands drowned smuggling coffee across Lake Kivu. Sopacdi pays a price premium for ‘Women’s Coffee’ to its female members, which helps enable them to provide for their families.

congo sunriseIn 2011, Sopacdi opened the first coffee washing station in the Congo for forty years and theirs was the first coffee to achieve the top national grade – Kivu 2 – since 1967.  Sopacdi’s farmers are renovating their land, incorporating measures to combat soil erosion and they are planting new coffee seedlings from the co-operative’s own nurseries. Farmers are attending workshops led by agronomists to learn about organic composting and mulching. Sopacdi has established a small tools fund to enable farmers to buy the equipment needed to produce the best quality coffee.

  • The first coffee in the DR Congo to achieve top national grade – Kivu 2 – since 1967
  • Specialty fully-washed arabica coffee
  • Organic certification
  • FLO certification number 26275
  • Main harvest from March to June; fly crop from September to October
  • Shipments from June to December
  • Altitude 1460m to over 2000 metres above sea level

Sopacdi is the first cooperative in the Congo to be Fairtrade-certified (in 2011). The premiun from the sale of their coffee to the international market is invested back into the community through projects that seek to deliver needed basic medical assistance, improve access to education, and better housing infrastructure.

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Trip Report: Coop Coffees Adventures in the Democratic Republic of Congo

By: Chris Treter – Higher Grounds Trading Co.
Trip Dates: June 23rd – July 3rd 2013

Participants:
Chris Treter, Higher Grounds Trading Co., Coop Coffees Member
Richard Hyde,
Twin Trading – Head of Twin’s Great Lakes Program
Nicolas Mounard , Twin Trading – Executive Director
Emmanuel Harelimana, Twin Trading Regional Manager for Great Lakes
Pascasie Nyirandege, Twin Trading - Great Lakes Program Support

congo washingWhy Coffee from the DR Congo? This very complicated country and history is an example of prolonged human tragedy manifested via colonial exploitation, dictatorship, unchecked globalization, and the lack of will of the international community to step forward in a land that doesn't hold the vast economic significance of other areas of the world nor the simple one liner to satisfy our ADHD news cycle. DR Congo is home to many of the economic slaves of the world - both historically and today. The country the size of Western Europe has a population of 70 million with an average life expectancy of just 51 years and an average income of only $200 - making it tied for the poorest, least developed country in the world. But through all of that stands the perseverance of the human spirit. This human spirit has persevered through 20 years of war which has claimed the lives of nearly 6 million people. The largest war related casualties since World War II.

And on the shores of the African Great Lakes lie one of the last bastions of potential for specialty coffee in the world. Due to decades of conflict, the specialty coffee market has been undeveloped. The potential is great – going back many years to the colonization by the Belgians in the early 1900s, coffee has been grown in Eastern DR Congo in an area the Belgians dubbed the “Alps of Africa.” Today, the remnants of those times are evident everywhere. From the new growth being cultivated from trees planted and coffee processed in mills built in the 1950s. The resurgence of the specialty coffee market led by the three fair trade coffee co-ops, Furaha, Muungano, and Sopacdi with the assistance of Twin Trading that are working to bring communities out of poverty and conflict to a new reality filled with hope and resilience.

Who is Twin Trading?

sopacdi womenIn their words: Twin is a pioneer and leader of the fair trade movement. We work on the ground with over 50 democratic farmer organisations in 18 countries representing some 400,000 smallholder farmers. We work with them to build capacity, develop infrastructure, overcome market barriers, adapt to the challenges of climate change and improve product quality – creating resilience and adding value to their businesses. We believe that there is a different way of doing business, where buyer and seller work in partnership and share the risks and rewards of trade more equitably.

Twin has played a key role in starting innovative new businesses, in which producer partners in the global south are shareholders. Our aim is to increase producer power and influence in their supply and value chains. Such market-facing brands include Divine Chocolate, Liberation Foods, Afri-Nut Ltd and Cafédirect. Twin is a registered charity in the UK and is the sole owner of Twin Trading, a limited guarantee company which trades directly with producer groups in the global south. All profits from the trading company are reinvested in Twin projects on the ground in Latin America, Africa and Asia.”

For a detailed account of this visit, read Chris' blog at www.highergroundstrading.com/blog/50/congo-bound