Photo credit: Paul Taggart for virunga.org
On the edges of Virunga National Park in eastern Congo, coffee growers are recovering from more than 30 years of conflict that has wreaked havoc on the country’s agricultural sector, threatening the park and its surrounding ecosystem.
The eastern DRC’s lush rainforests and fertile soil are perfect for growing coffee. But for decades now, coffee farmers there have had to travel over the border into Rwanda and Uganda to access buyers: there simply wasn’t another option. Violent conflict and political turmoil have decimated the DRC’s coffee sector and any hope of a viable market in-country. For their efforts, farmers have only earned a tiny fraction of what their exceptional coffee, which is on par with award-winning lots from elsewhere in the world, is worth. They often risk--and sometimes lose--their lives, just trying to get paid.
Private investment in the DRC’s coffee sector is nearly non-existent; it’s difficult to do business in the midst of corruption and the threat of violence. That means that thousands of Congolese coffee farmers have nowhere to process their coffee, no resources for improving their growing practices and maximizing quality, and no access to the global market. But here at Higher Grounds, we want to shine a light on the fortitude and resilience of those who have begun to rebuild the infrastructure necessary for sharing their incredible coffee with the world.
Today we are beyond excited to launch a coffee that is truly the first of its kind. Through our exploration of Congolese coffee and relationships developed there over the past few years, we have been introduced to the farmers of Kawa Kanzururu--a young cooperative demonstrating an innovative economic model for surrounding communities--and also to the incredible work of the Virunga Alliance, which provides essential jobs, protects biodiversity, and guards critically endangered mountain gorillas within Virunga National Park.
The exceptional coffee of the DRC is emerging on the global stage. Kawa Kanzururu’s coffee itself exemplifies the unique character of eastern Congo, heirloom Bourbon varietals grown in rich volcanic earth and tended by generations of farmers whose work has gone unrecognized and unrewarded for too long.
The sale of this coffee directly supports these remarkable farmers, who all live within a day’s walk of the park, and the groundbreaking projects of the Virunga Alliance. Stay tuned for more details about our partnership with Kawa Kunzururu and Virunga, and sign up for our eNewsletter (below) to receive special updates and announcements.