Organic certification to decommodify coffee


Kawa Kabuya, which means good coffee, is a cooperative of smallholding coffee farmers located in the territories of Beni and Lubero, in North Kivu, east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The cooperative was established in 2014 with the support of the Belgian development organisation VECO (now Rikolto) to give services to more than 2,000 smallholding coffee farmers (average of 0.5 Ha) in agricultural production, training, collection and processing coffee beans through micro washing station and the commercialisation of green coffee beans to local and international clients.

Agriterra onboarded Kawa Kabuya as a client in 2017 with the aim to achieve the cooperative’s ambitions to obtain the Fair Trade and organic certification, improve the quality of coffee and boost its coffee exports. Thus, in the first year of collaboration Agriterra financed, on a cost-sharing basis, the codification of 964 coffee farmers based on their GPS location, age, size of the farm, altitude, number of coffee plants and other relevant characteristic. This proved to be an essential activity to prepare the organic certification process for coffee farmers and the cooperative.

To further structure the collaboration between Agriterra and Kawa Kabuya, the local business advisors assisted the cooperative to develop its strategic plan 2018-2023. The cooperative set its five-year goal to become the first specialty coffee cooperative in the country, export 20 containers per year and detach its prices from stock exchange prices. To achieve this goal the strategic plan defined key market activities: (1) certify the coffee production, (2) find new international buyers and (3) perform more and better marketing.

On the one hand, to support the key activities delineated in the strategic plan regarding coffee certification, the codification process continued in 2018, with 327 additional farmers classified, since this activity required more time than originally expected given the distance between farm fields. In addition, Agriterra co-financed the training of 25 agronomists and local monitoring agents from Kawa Kabuya on Fair Trade and organic standards, plus 1,800 farmers on good agricultural practices, intended to facilitate the certification process.

The farmer codification process was completed in 2019, which facilitated the cooperative to obtain the Coffee Practices certification, an internal certification awarded by Starbucks, and get ready for the organic certification which could not be carried out earlier as the auditors had to postpone the audit because of an Ebola outbreak in the radius of operation of Kawa Kabuya. In addition, Agriterra co-financed the training of 682 coffee farmers in good agricultural practices through the set-up of demonstration fields.

Finally, in 2020 the cooperative achieved the organic certification, while Agriterra kept on supporting demonstration fields to train farmers in organic agricultural practices, more specifically in the biological control of diseases, composting, mulching and plastic waste management. This work was expanded in 2021 with further trainings to farmers on the production and application of organic compost, the installation of four units to produce bio-fertiliser and the training of 312 washing station managers and farmers on organic certification standards.

On the other hand, Agriterra supported the strategic key activities regarding the finding of new international clients by inviting Kawa Kabuya to international coffee events. In April 2018, Kawa Kabuya attended an international coffee marketing workshop given by Agriterra, where they learnt about the European coffee buyer Tropicore from another participant cooperative, Coopérative des Planteurs et Négociants du Café (CPNCK), who was exporting green coffee to Tropicore at the time. In addition, Agriterra invited Kawa Kabuya to participate in the African Fine Coffee Conference & Exhibition (AFCA) held in February 2019 in Kigali (Rwanda), a few months later in the World of Coffee fair, the largest coffee event worldwide, done in June 2019 in Berlin (Germany) and, after the COVID-19 pandemic, in June 2022 again in the World of Coffee fair held in Milan (Italy).

Thanks to the continuous support of Agriterra to achieve the organic certification plus the additional exposure to international markets, Kawa Kabuya was able to sign a commercial contract with the Swiss client Terracore, a subsidiary of Tropicore, in April 2021 to export 19.2 Tn of organic certified green coffee beans for a value of USD 61,056 (USD 3,180 per Tn).


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