Honouring our coffee
My name is Judith Kahindo Katavali, I’m an agricultural engineer working for Soprocopiv as a technical supervisor of agronomists. I coordinate the activities of our agronomists in the field, I advise on the purchase of coffee trees and training and, last but not least, I'm in charge of all the certifications.
Soprocopiv has 7,636 members; all coffee farmers with fields ranging from 20 acres to 10 hectares. They are located in Lubero and Beni territory, in the Kivu area of the DRC.
"My name is Kambale Bonane Blessing. I’m from Kirumba in North Kivu.
My coffee plantation counts around 1,600 plants and covers about one hectare. My grandparents planted these fields during the Belgian occupation, and I inherited them. I sell my Arabica coffee to Soprocopiv."
Kambale Bonane Blessing
The farmers bring their products to the coffee collection depots, where Soprocopiv pays the farmers the market price, as well as a premium for their certified coffee. Once purchased, we store the coffee in our depots or stores before transporting it to our factory. We then sell it to a number of clients – including some international companies in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Turkey and the UK. The prices we charge depend on the quality required – full-washed (K3), washed (K4) or K7.
All our members are currently UTZ-BIO certified, out of which 2/3rds Arabica and 1/3rd Robusta. All our members growing Arabica coffee have received the Fair For Life (FFL) certification in October 2020. On top of these, we are currently undergoing an audit for the Fairtrade certification. The latter is rather new, and the result of the efforts of the Technical Assistance Facility of the Fairtrade Access Fund from Incofin, which is helping us acquire the Fairtrade certification digitally, as our region is too distant/difficult to reach for the standard certification process.
These labels share the same 4 parameters: social, environmental, quantity and quality. Through these labels, the product can be traced, the production improved, and financial premiums obtained, for the direct benefit of the farmers and their villagers. They also allow us to stabilise the prices and reach a wider and more international clientele.
"We prefer this most recent Fairtrade certification because it is, well… fair trade. It is advantageous for both producers and buyers. Producers are encouraged to take action to produce better quality coffee. We are really grateful for the recommendations we received and, even though producing coffee is our core business, we also think of improving the social life of our producers and agronomists.
There is a premium for Fairtrade-certified coffee: we are selling our coffee at USD 1.6 per kilo, which is almost 15% more than the USD 1.4 for non-certified coffee. This price difference reflects the quality difference: non-certified producers sometimes let their coffee dry on the soil, not caring much about its cleanliness. Sometimes, their beans do not get fermented, or they collect them in the evening so that the pulp does not get removed until the next day. This means that the coffee will stay in the house for two or even four days.
We are confident that our production is of good quality and healthy. Customers don’t want to drink dirty coffee. We respect all good measures, as Soprocopiv taught us, both in the fields and at home."
Kambale Bonane Blessing
We train our members on these good agricultural practices and their neighbours imitate them after seeing the higher yields.
I want to be a model coffee producer. I want to inspire others and teach them that they deserve to be respected.
Kambale Bonane Blessing, coffee producer
We want to further grow the cooperative’s activities: although we cover 16 areas, we only have 6 coffee washing stations, leaving the remote farmers without easy access. We are also looking into new pulping machines, which could really increase the quality and quantity of our products.
With the support of the Technical Assistance Facility of the Fairtrade Access Fund, we’re also creating nurseries to rejuvenate the old orchards, increasing the productivity – and income – of our members.
Coffee is a seasonal crop, leaving farmers without an income for a large part of the year. That is why we are currently looking into other income-generating activities – both for our farmers and for the families they support.
We also want to invest in infrastructure. We need good schools, so that the children of our farmers have opportunities that their parents never had, as well as an easy access to quality health services.
"When I was in third grade, the war still raged. Sometimes, our parents would have to leave us alone, which was very difficult for us. Still, I studied hard and got my state diploma. Although I was smart enough, I couldn’t go to university. To do so, I would have had to leave my fields – my sole source of income – to go to an urban centre for higher education, and that I couldn’t afford to do."
Kambale Bonane Blessing
Finally, we want to introduce short-term micro-credit for our members. This will allow those with larger plots of land to pay for labour and will help struggling farmers in between harvests. We would be the first to do this, as there are no other financial institutions in the area.
The Fairtrade Access Fund has invested in Soprocopiv, a coffee cooperative in Kivu, in the DRC, and has, likewise, supported them through a Technical Assistance Facility.
Judith Kahindo Katavali works as a technical supervisor of agronomists for Soprocopiv. Kambale Bonane Blessing owns a coffee plantation and is one of the members of Soprocopiv. This is their story.
Fairtrade Access Fund
Subsidy € 350,000.00 (2020)Latin America and Caribbean, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Sub-Saharan Africa, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda
Equity € 3,000,000.00 (2019)Latin America and Caribbean, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Sub-Saharan Africa, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda
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