A year ago we started working with the CPNCK coffee co-operative on the island of Idjwi in Lake Kivu. Back then the situation was dire. The coffee growers on the island were losing their lives when smuggling coffee beans across the lake to Rwanda and more than one thousand women on the island had been widowed. An alternative buyer in Europe or the United States was more a dream than a reality.
Since then and with our help, the co-operative has sold a container of coffee to a buyer in the States and this month it sold a second container to a buyer in Europe. We’re now working with the co-operative to mobilise a third container. The trade with Rwanda continues, but thanks to CPNCK a real alternative is emerging that gives the coffee growers a better price for their produce without risking their lives on the lake.
The co-operative is building on this success with a progamme of work to install micro washing stations that will significantly improve the washing and drying process, which in turn will improve the quality of the coffee beans. The combination of legitimate sales and improved quality is the way forward and similar programmes are starting up in other coffee growing areas of Kivu.
It’s still early days, but the time may come when buyers around the world come to Kivu to buy hundreds of containers of quality coffee, the money from which will help the growers lift themselves out of dire circumstances and strengthen the resolve of the communities in Kivu to resist conflict and live in peace.