Kivu is the general name for East Congo (Kinshasa) and covers a very broad geographical area. It borders on Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Lake Tanganyika on the east. Kivu is divided into three provinces, Nord-Kivu (North Kivu), Sud-Kivu (South Kivu), and Maniema. Primary production includes coffee, cotton, rice, and palm oil, and tin and some gold are mined too. For coffee the quality potential is high, but the political turmoil and power struggles make actual stable business practice a huge challenge.
Of course, smallholder coffee farmers are the first to suffer. So in a sense the export of coffee to the US is in itself a positive sign about East Congo stability. What we need to see next is NGOs and others move in and try to firmly re-establish the coffee trade, rebuild mills, offer education toward specialty coffee production, and install a Fair Trade pricing model.
The fact is Congo coffee is being exported on the cheap. The price is below fair trade level – the bare minimum we like to pay, with most of our lots offered at higher-than-fair-trade prices. And even though the coffee comes from Cooperatives, it’s very difficult to verify how much money actually makes it back to the farmer-members. With a little help, we hope to see this change, keeping fair and transparent business practices as a primary goal. We have encouraging prospects in the DRC, and with overall quality potential being high; there is a lot of interest.