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NGOs Promote Trade, Gender Equality as New Coffees Emerge from DRC

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A group of NGOs with ties to the Democratic Republic of Congo coffee industry is planning a series events in the Kivu region this May to drum up support for the reemerging sector, while also supporting related humanitarian efforts.

Most of the coffee-related events will commence on May 29, on the final day of Run Across Congo, a weeklong run along Lake Kivu’s shores. The marathon, which has been preceded by related fundraising runs held by U.S.-based Higher Grounds Trading Co. and Amavida Coffee, will benefit Project Congo, a program working toward gender equality and other issues facing smallholder farmers in Eastern DRC.

Events following the run are being organized by NGOs On The Ground, Twin Trading, Joint Marketing Initiative of Twin (JMI), and Eastern Congo Initiative. For guests from the coffee industry, the groups are organizing visits to cooperatives, as well as cuppings, with hopes of promoting the quality of coffees from Eastern DRC that are just now entering the international market.

Much of the producer organization in the region has surrounded the 5,600-farmer-member Sopacdi Cooperative, which with support from numerous local and international groups built the region’s first functioning washing station in 40 years in 2012, and recently produced the first top-graded “Kivu 2” coffee in the DRC since 1967. The groups are promising coffees from numerous cooperatives lining Lake Kivu.

“The DRC’s extraordinarily beautiful eastern highlands provide fertile volcanic soils, shade cover and altitudes ideal for growing premium-grade Arabica coffee,” On the Ground said in a recent announcement of the program. “Trip participants will visit various cooperatives and communities to see how specialty coffee production is supporting economic development as the region recovers from years of instability.”

A large part of DRC’s recent coffee resurgence has been a focus on gender equality in producing communities. The problem is amplified in this region of DRC, where sexual violence has been “used as a tool of oppression to destabilize communities” during civil conflicts over the past decades, On the Ground said.

“For an industry that requires so much passion for coffee from its producers, it is not only important, it is essential to see to it that your coffee is coming from thriving communities” says Katherine Nolte of Twin, which ran the Congo Coffee Revival project that won the 2014 SCAA Sustainability Award.

Go here for more on Run Across Congo, which will benefit local coffee cooperatives as well as widows of the fallen rangers at Virunga National Park.

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