The Congo Coffee Project

Equal Exchange

equal ex 3Project Description
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, aka The DRC, is today mostly seen only as huge, trop­i­cal coun­try rav­aged by decades of civil war and wide-spread vio­lence.  Strangely, the real­ity is both worse and bet­ter than that per­cep­tion. It is worse in that few in the U.S. real­ize the actual scale and nature of the vio­lence.  More than 6,000,000 have been killed in the DRC since 1995, and hun­dreds of thou­sands of women have been raped, most often as a tool of war and intim­i­da­tion by both sides of the fight­ing. It’s esti­mated that one woman is raped every minute in the DRC. Unfortunately the fight­ing and the sex­ual vio­lence upon women and girls con­tin­ues today, and it is most com­mon around Lake Kivu, on the DRC’s east­ern bor­der with Rwanda.

But the real­ity is also a lit­tle bet­ter than the head­lines because there are won­der­ful orga­ni­za­tions that are try­ing to turn things around.  For exam­ple, there is the small, but grow­ing SOPACDI co-operative of organic cof­fee farm­ers just north of Lake Kivu. They are try­ing to make a sus­tain­able, peaca­ble liveli­hood amongst the ongo­ing strife. Long ago the DRC had a sub­stan­tial cof­fee sec­tor, but it fell into ruins dur­ing the long years of war. SOPACDI is try­ing to reju­vanate their local cof­fee econ­omy, and to once again make a name for fine Congolese cof­fee on the world mar­ket. More than 15 per­cent of the mem­bers are women, many of whom are wid­ows whose hus­bands died try­ing to smug­gle and barter cof­fee across the lake to Rwanda.

Therefore, the FIRST ele­ment of the Equal Exchange Coffee Congo Project is, of course, to work with the farm­ers of SOPACDI to present their har­vest at its best to the US cof­fee drink­ing pub­lic.  All the farms are between 4,900 and 6,560 feet. About 50 per­cent of the co-op’s cof­fee, pri­mar­ily Bourbon, is processed at the cen­tral wash­ing sta­tion. The cof­fee goes through a Rwandan-style fermentation-and-washing process that ends on raised African dry­ing beds.  Our Quality Control Manager, Beth Ann Caspersen, not only led the cre­ation of this project, but has trav­eled to SOPACDI to pro­vide tech­ni­cal assistance.

A sec­ond com­po­nent of our project is to raise badly needed funds for The Panzi Foundation, who oper­ates the Panzi Hospital and its “Maison Dorcas” after­care pro­gram for women in the town of Bukavu, just south of Lake Kivu. This hos­pi­tal is specif­i­cally to treat female vic­tims of sex­ual vio­lence, and is the only facil­ity of its kind in the DRC.  A key objec­tive of Maison Dorcas is to help women heal from the trauma of rape, and also to pro­vide skills and train­ing applic­a­ble to their lives and tra­di­tions. Approximately 40 to 60 per­cent of the women treated for sex­ual vio­lence at the Panzi Hospital go to Maison Dorcas, which pro­vides extended shel­ter, lit­er­acy and skills train­ing, and trauma treat­ment for women and their chil­dren who often have no place else to go.  Our con­tri­bu­tions are used to train women in weav­ing and mak­ing soymilk, bread/binets and fruit juice. These pro­grams are being expanded this year.

The third com­po­nent of the Congo Coffee Project is to raise aware­ness about the real­ity fac­ing farm­ers and women in the Eastern Congo, and about pro­grams that are mak­ing a real dif­fer­ence in those communities.

(Note: Equal Exchange & SOPACDI are both indebted for the work of TWIN Trading in the UK, who has been vital to both our orga­ni­za­tions efforts described here).

Who Benefits from this project?
Hundreds and hun­dreds of peo­ple in the Eastern Congo ben­e­fit directly from the Congo Coffee Project, and many more thou­sands ben­e­fit indirectly.

The small-scale organic farm­ers of SOPACDI ben­e­fit from Equal Exchange’s Fair Trade pur­chases of their cof­fee. They ben­e­fit from Beth Ann’s assis­tance with the qual­ity con­trol pro­gram and recruit­ment of qual­i­fied cup­pers. They ben­e­fit from our efforts to intro­duce them to the broader cof­fee industry.

Tens of thou­sands of other small cof­fee farm­ers in the DRC ben­e­fit from our efforts to raise the pro­file of spe­cialty grade and organic cof­fees from their country.

The Panzi Hospital is a 450 bed facil­ity in a city of one mil­lion peo­ple and pro­vides life-saving treat­ment, coun­sel­ing, and after­care pro­grams to more than 2,000 sur­vivors of sex­ual vio­lence each year. In 2012 it also deliv­ered over 3,400 babies, and treated approx­i­mately 500 chil­dren for mal­nu­tri­tion.
It is one of the few cen­ters in the region to pro­vide treat­ment and sup­port for HIV/AIDS. It is also one of the few med­ical cen­ters in the DRC that does not require pay­ment before pro­vid­ing emer­gency care.

Approximately 40 to 60 per­cent of the women treated for sex­ual vio­lence go to the hospital’s “Maison Dorcas” after­care pro­gram, which pro­vides extended shel­ter, lit­er­acy and skills train­ing, and trauma treat­ment for women and their chil­dren who often have no place else to go.  Woven bags pro­duced by the recov­er­ing patients will be sold via the Equal Exchange website.

In 2012 Equal Exchange raised $16,138 for the Maison Dorcas pro­gram, all earned through the sales of Congo Coffee Project coffee.

How Can I Help?
You can help by:

• Buy, sell, & serve the organic, Fair Trade cof­fee from the Equal Exchange Congo Coffee project.

Every sale means more rev­enues for the SOPACDI farmer co-op and a step towards reju­ve­nat­ing the Congolese cof­fee econ­omy.
Plus every 1 lb bag  bought at whole­sale gen­er­ates a $1 dona­tion to the Panzi Foundation, to help sup­port the crit­i­cal Panzi hos­pi­tal in the DRC.
Every bag bought at retail ($12) via our online store gen­er­ates a $2 dona­tion to the Panzi Foundation.

• Purchasing of the woven bags pro­duced by the women engaged in the Maison Dorcas pro­gram. Later this year they will be avail­able via our online store

• Spreading the word and rais­ing aware­ness about the trou­bles in the DR Congo, and these great efforts to cre­ate a new future for the Congolese

Congo Coffee Project:
The Panzi Foundation:
Women for Women International:

Contact Name:     Rodney North
Web Site:
Location:     West Bridgewater, MA, 02379
Email Address:
Phone Number:     774.776.7398

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