Muungano (meaning ‘Togetherness’ in Swahili) is a cooperative of 4,238 farmers, of which 1,707 are women. Located in the Northern Region of South Kivu, in the Eastern area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the cooperative was founded in 2009 and has obtained Fairtrade and organic certification.
Muungano first exported coffee grown by women in 2016, as part of a wider gender justice strategy at Muungano, which includes Gender Action Learning Systems (GALS) and the promotion of women’s leadership.
In January 2017, representatives of women from all of the coffee sectors met to discuss how they would like to invest the women’s premium. They decided that rather than receive it as an individual additional payment they would prefer to invest it in a goat rearing project, whereby the women who deliver coffee receive a goat. Their aim is for every woman member of Muungano who delivers coffee, to receive a goat; they hope to achieve this in the next four years. Their reasons for choosing goats were that:
- they are a low-risk investment
- they are a visible asset, which will motivate other women to join the cooperative and deliver coffee
- they can be used as collateral to access a small credit or a guarantee to rent a field from a neighbour
- if they need cash, they can be sold easily to pay school fees or a hospital bill.
- their manure can be used for organic fertiliser
- the women already know how to manage and look after them.
Female farmers are already seeing the benefit of their involvement, including the development of their leadership and management skills, additional income and enriched compost for their coffee plots. Existing women members are delivering more coffee to the cooperative and more women have applied to become members. Women involved in the goat project have formed small groups, and are generating more ideas for joint ventures, as well as setting up savings and credit groups.
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