One of our first desires as a ministry was to help the coffee farmers. Their needs were highlighted to us by the community from the start and we have been eager to offer assistance. Unfortunately, this has been harder than expected due to the nature of the industry, and specialist skills required – not to mention the business side of such a project! However, steps forward have indeed been made and we want to share them with you. But first, a little background about the situation . . .
Currently, coffee grown in the territory of Mahagi is being sold into the already saturated Ugandan markets in Paidha. This results in poor financial return for farmers. Middle-men buy the beans from the farmers at very low prices, but without an alternative market, farmers are forced to sell their products to these middle-men who then on-sell the beans to roasters for a high return. There used to be large storehouses and processing plants in Mahagi area, but these were destroyed during the tribal wars over ten years ago and have not been repaired.
DRC coffee in the Mahagi region is also of poor quality due to insufficient education of farmers in the best agricultural methods. This has given DRC coffee a name for inferior coffee in the international market. There is a need for agricultural scientists to be employed in the education of farmers to improve crop quality.
We are conducting meetings with coffee buyers from the neighboring town of Paidha, Uganda, to convince them to buy coffee from Mahagi at a fair price. There has been some positive response. Coffee owners in our area have also begun asking us to negotiate the price for them, which we are pleased to do. Furthermore, we have been working with some of the farmers to improve crop quality and this is also helping in negotiation when the buyers know that the seller is working with us. In addition, we are helping the farmers to plant new coffee bushes.
Coffee is currently one of the few cash crops produced in the region of Mahagi for export. Lack of diversity places the local economy at risk as years of poor-yield, such as occurs with pestilence or changed rainfall patterns, rob the area of its yearly income resulting in insufficient incomes for families to meet their needs for food and healthcare. There is a need to look to diversify the crops and exports of the eastern region of the DRC to create economic protection for the wider community.
We have trained staff member, Anecho, through a sustainable agricultural course and he is helping to train locals with this knowledge. We are currently training another local, John, through the same school. After completion of the course, John will join our team to help expand agricultural training in our area.