Speciality Fairtrade Sopacdi coffee to support farming communities in the world’s poorest country
Sopacdi Fairtrade Ground Coffee is not just a must-have for discerning coffee lovers; behind the subtle grapefruit and cherry flavours and hint of bright citrus is an inspiring story of triumph over adversity in a war ravaged country. The extraordinary beauty of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) eastern highlands provides fertile volcanic soils, rainforests and altitudes ideal for premium grade Arabica coffee. Despite these natural riches, the DRC’s coffee industry all but died out following the decade-long civil war sparked by the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
Many coffee growers were forced to abandon their farms to flee the violence. Those who remained had little choice but to smuggle their harvest across the giant Lake Kivu into neighbouring Rwanda, thousands drowning in the attempt. This tragedy, in combination with the conflict, left countless coffee widows in its wake struggling to support their families. In the face of these extremely challenging circumstances, the Sopcadi coffee cooperative set out to deliver better livelihoods for farmers and develop a premium grade coffee through a unique collaboration.
As part of a three-year project supported by the Department for International Development’s Food Retail Industry Challenge Fund (FRICH) and Comic Relief, Sainsbury’s entered into a partnership with the Sopacdi coffee cooperative, the roasters Finlays, and Twin, the ethical trading organisation working with smallholder farming groups in the developing world. By bringing this wealth of industry expertise together, Sopacdi has benefited from training and new facilities to improve quality, as well as support to become the country’s first ever Fairtrade certified cooperative.
The income from the stylishly packaged premium grade coffee will help Sopacdi deliver social projects to benefit the whole community and support ongoing efforts to improve quality. An extra 2 cents/lb on the sale of all coffee by Sopacdi supports female empowerment programmes and has so far contributed around $15,000 to support a women’s committee and small business ventures run by women.
Cecile Batumike, Sopacdi member, said “I had to bribe the police to be able to cross to Rwanda by boat. I saw boats sink because the waves were huge. Many people in my village died that way leaving their children orphans and without any kind of assistance. With the income from the sale of our coffee, we are now able to send our children to school, we are able to feed our families and we are proud to know that our coffee is being sold in the international market.”
Building on these successes, last year Sainsbury’s kicked off a second FRICH project in partnership with Finlays and Twin to continue supporting Sopacdi alongside a second Congolese coffee cooperative, Muungano.
Notes to editors