Umoja Batwa is produced by 105 Batwa, pygmies, smallholder farmers. Due to their smaller stature and oftentimes isolation in Congo’s rainforest, this community has often been marginalized, persecuted and excluded from the modern economy. Their integration in the coffee sector serves as an opportunity to participate in the economy and society and have access to the same opportunities afforded to all Congolese citizens. Through the cooperative they’ve also been able to fund scholarships for their members such as Marc Tulinabo Mambo.
A Farmer’s Story
Marc Tulinabo Mambo
I am a university student. I’ve been working for four years in coffee in order to support my family and our community. We still need to do more and hope that by being able to produce more and higher quality coffee, we will bring financial stability and education to our community.
Cooperative: Solidarité pour la Promotion des actions Café et le Développement Intégral (SOPACDI)
Smallholder Farmer Solidarity for Coffee Production and Comprehensive Development
As coffee production drastically decreased since Congo’s independence in 1960, the financial stability of coffee producers became severely compromised as they received minimal support from the government and little access to international markets.
Smuggling coffee to Rwanda and Uganda became a last resort option for many producers. Despite its perceived benefits of quick access to cash, many lost their lives either by drowning in Lake Kivu in an attempt to cross into Rwanda, or during the sometimes perilous journey across the Rwenzori mountains seeking to cross into Uganda.
Community leaders who grew up in the coffee sector sought to combat this challenge and organized themselves as a cooperative. The organization was founded in 2003, and there were initially 279 members, including 276 men and 3 women.
The group has made strides in gender equity since then, with 30% of its members being women, and today there are more than 11,000 smallholder producers that are part of Solidarité pour la Promotion des actions Café et le Développement Intégral (SOPACDI).