DR Congo – Kawa Kanzururu Co-op coffee
I think it is quite miraculous that we are able to source coffee from The Democratic Republic of Congo. Not only is it rewarding to receive, it is also great coffee. One day I hope I'll pay a visit to these amazing producers but for now all I can do is write about the background to a country that has been devastated by war and disease.
5.4 million people have lost their lives in the Congo due to the various conflicts between 1997 and 2003. It has been described as "the rape capital of the world" and the conflict as "Africa's own world war". 4.5 million people have been displaced from their homes in the last 20 years and 7.7 million face severe food security.
Congo's problem is that it has vast amount of untapped mineral wealth that, ever since 1885, the whole world and its oyster have been trying to exploit. Its soils are full of what we today call "conflict minerals". You may well ask "so what?" Well next time you pick up your mobile phone contemplate the fact that one of the metals used in its manufacture - coltan, may have come from the Congo; then contemplate how many lives may have been lost to obtain that metal so that you can have access to your friends 24/7.
But it's not just coltan, it is but one of what are known as the "3 TGs". Cassiterite (used for tin), wolframite (used for tungsten) and finally gold ore. All are found in the Congo but, as is usually the case, the people who do the mining make the least money, suffer the worst of the diseases and get killed in the bitter conflicts. Despite having the largest UN peacekeeping force, little progress has been made. The current president was due to stand for election last year, but elections never happened.
There's a lot of media coverage around countries such as Syria, Iraq and Myanmar, yet their issues pale into insignificance when compared to what is happening in the Congo. It makes me wonder as to whether African lives are seen as less important than Asian and European lives in the Western media circus.
It's one thing to write about the disaster, it's another to try and make a difference. We're trying in our small way to make a difference by buying coffee from this country.
Kawa Kanzururu is a co-operative with a membership by the end of 2016 of 839 coffee farmers. The coffee is grown on the side of the Rwenzori range which is a small mountain range in Central Africa located on the boarder between Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo, that reaches a height of 5,109 meters. The micro-washing stations, as well as the coffee fields, are found between 1100 and 1600 metres.
The coffee itself comes in a good old-fashioned hessian sack. Whilst we were emptying its contents we noticed that there was a lot of printing on the inside. Upon investigation we saw that this sack had clearly been used many times for different coffees. It's quite an irony that, despite being surrounded by all this mineral wealth, coffee sacks should be considered such a premium product and worthy of re-use. Says it all really. . . . . . . .