This month the first six micro washing stations have arrived from Kenya and will be installed at sites on Idjwi as soon as the machines have been clearer by customs, which is taking a while.
The picture above is one of the buildings constructed by the islanders to store coffee beans and house the washing station.
The machines will be used by CPNCK coffee co-operative to wash the ripened coffee cherries and remove the outer layers so that the beans inside can be dried on large trays out in the sun. This process is no different from that used for decades by the coffee growers to produce parchement coffee beans, except that the micro washing stations will do the job better and work much faster - and consequently produce a significant improvement in coffee quality.
And we mean significant. The old ways were so poor that even the highest quality cherries could be reduced to the lowest grade coffee beans. But until now there has been no alternative to the old ways and for years and years the Kivu coffee growers have exported K4 coffee, the lowest grade on the market.
The new machines will make a big difference and are the result of collaboration between a visionary NGO called VECO and the coffee growers themselves. The plan is to install something like one hundred micro stations in the Kivu region, eighteen of which will be located on Idjwi.
The impact could be a very significant and far reaching in that Kivu coffee growers will have the chance to stop risking their life transporting coffee across the lake to Rwanda or over the border to Uganda or Burundi, and instead attract buyers from Europe and America and secure a better price for their produce.
There is also a real possibility that the improvement in quality will elevate Kivu coffee from the lowest grade to become some of the best quality coffee in the world. This will of course take time and involve more than the installation of washing stations. The growers will also have to improve their cultivation techniques and the co-operatives will need to speed up the buying and processing cycle. But at least they have an inherently high quality product.
Nowhere is this more the case than Idjwi. The islanders will be amongst the first to receive delivery of the washing stations and the quality and quantity of coffee on the island offers hope for a step change in the economy and improvements in the well-being of one of the poorest communities in the country.
Luminosity in collaboration with Ensemble Pour la Difference is continuing to provide financial and operation support to CPNCK as they transition into this new era. We know that one day soon they will need to look for investors who can provide much more operating cash to enable the concurrent export of multiple containers. We’re helping CPNCK plan for such a need because like them we believe the micro washing stations will be the catalyst for a step change in fortune.