Kawa Maber, DRC

Up until recently, coffee from the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo had totally disappeared off the world map.

Lack of infrastructure, unpredictable weather conditions and the geographical isolation of the Ituri region have presented Kawa Maber's farmers with enormous challenges in getting their coffee to market. Despite this, they have persevered to produce an amazing quality coffee with cupping scores of 85-88.5: a testimony to their dedication, patience and shared vision.

While they continue to face challenges in their day-to-day work, they are spurred on by having access to export markets for the first time in many years and remain upbeat about investing in their future by producing high quality coffee.

Fast facts

  • Country: Democratic Republic of Congo 
  • Region: Ituri, Northeast DR Congo bordering South Sudan and Uganda 
  • Founded: 2014 
  • Producers: 2300 smallholder farmers, including 391 women and 506 youth; 4 of 11 board members are women (11 sectors)
  • Post-harvest process: Fully Washed K3 coffee from 30 micro-washing stations; dried on raised beds in drying sheds
  • Certifications: Working towards Fairtrade and Organic (external audit mid-November 2017)
  • Harvest time: September to January
  • Varieties: Older plants are Bourbon. Coffee seedlings of Blue Mountain and Mundo Novo Arabica 
  • Elevation: 1500-2200m
  • Soil type: Rich, organic. No chemicals used 
  • Shipment time: April to August 
  • 2017 export: 15,600kg
  • 2018 projected volume: 3 containers
  • Awards: Bean Auction Dec 2017 #9: Kawa Maber, Jupungela | K3 FW (Screen 15+) 33 Bags (60 KG) 84 points Oct 17 - Dec 17 harvest Candy, nutty and orange: primary defects 0, secondary defects 2.
  • Quality and the cup: Elegant bright cranberry-like acidity, cane sugar and prune notes with syrupy body and good balance

Context

The district of Ituri, near the north Rwenzori mountains, lacks an operating export channel, which makes it a far more challenging area to export coffee from than Goma. Its proximity to the better-connected areas of Uganda meant that its coffee often used to be sold over the border.

In 2012, Belgian NGO VECO began working with FPCAI cooperative to improve their coffee quality and support them to enter the specialty market. In 2014 this cooperative became what is now known as Kawa Maber ("Good Coffee" in the local language, Alur). VECO then began working with Twin, primarily to give support to Kawa Maber on quality, gender, sustainable production, and marketing.

Twin Trading bought the first container of micro-station coffee from Kawa Maber in early 2015, and included the cooperative in its 5-year MAANDA project funded by Comic Relief. Kawa Maber is now able to export quality coffee and receives well-deserved recognition in the international market. In 2016, just 2 years after being established, coffee from Kawa Maber was the first runner-up in an AFCA Taste of Harvest event.

Support from Twin focusses on capacity-building for staff on administrative and financial systems, quality training for farmers, growing seedlings and sharing sustainable agriculture techniques, as well as support with trading and marketing. A monitoring system for each micro-washing station is in place, based on key performance indicators.