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Coffee varieties of mesoamerica and the caribbean

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Strengthening Value Chains in DRC

Revitalizing a once-great coffee region

The problem

In the 1970s and 80s, the Lake Kivu region at the border of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda was one of Africa’s leading exporters of coffee. But a wave of violence that began in the 1990s, coupled with poverty and disease, has claimed the lives of over 5 million people, displaced many more, and destroyed much of the country’s coffee market—shrinking production from 110,000 metric tons in the late 1980s to about 50,000 metric tons in 2009. Despite the odds, the 4,000 smallholders in the region have continued producing coffee, albeit with old and rudimentary equipment and with little access to international markets. To sell their coffee, they had to smuggle their crop across Lake Kivu into Rwanda, traveling at night in small boats. Without buyers and little institutional support, quality and productivity declined precipitously.

Saveur du Kivu farmer

The solution

Recognizing that reliable incomes from coffee could help bring stability to the South Kivu region, and that it has the potential to become a beacon of coffee quality, World Coffee Research is participating in the USAID Feed the Future-funded Strengthening Value Chains project to increase incomes for 15,000 coffee farmers in South Kivu through increased coffee productivity, value addition through washing, financial management, and strengthened market linkages.

The project enhances coffee production by delivering agronomy training; conducting targeted research to provide better information on profitability and key productivity constraints; offering business coaching to wet mills and establishing new mills; facilitating access to new markets; enhancing marketing efforts; facilitating access to finance; and developing and introducing new varieties.

WCR is assisting the project by installing 30 farmer field trials to understand which combinations of improved varieties and climate-smart farming practices drive the largest profitability gains, and installing 6 multilocation agronomy trials to identify the rate of return on investment on novel approaches to agronomy, including densification, the use of cover crops, intercropping with soy and beans, organic fertilization formulation and doses, fertilizer application rates. In addition, WCR is assisting with the establishment of professionalized seed lots for the mass production of improved varieties, and research to understand the key constraints to improved productivity (such as dieback, old trees, etc.)

But helping farmers grow more and better coffee is only half the battle. The Kivu region has limited infrastructure for processing and marketing coffee; WCR is also therefore providing technical assistance to train cuppers and facilitate the Saveur de Kivu cupping event to bring international attention to the coffees. In 2019, four coffees from the competition scored over 90 points.

Impact

The SVC project will increase incomes for South Kivu coffee farmers through multiple channels, including technical interventions like coffee variety enhancements, soil fertility improvements and intercropping practices. WCR’s contribution to the project is specifically tied to improving yields and quality since higher yields directly translate to higher incomes; and higher quality brings more stable relationships with buyers. WCR is also collaborating with the local Universite Catholique de Bukavu to ensure that an applied research program can continue to support local farmers in making informed and economically meaningful decisions regarding varieties, plantation renovation, inter-cropping and fertilization for years to come.

  • Location: Congo (the Democratic Republic of the)
  • Leaders: Sylvain Roulain, Kraig Kraft
  • Partners: Office National du Café (ONC), Institute National por l’Etude et la Recherce Agronomique (INERA), Universite Catholique de Bukavu (UCB)
  • Cost: Major funding from Feed the Future via Tetra Tech