The Bittersweet story of Muungano Co-operative
29th April 2019
‘Through adversity this co-op has maintained their ethos towards growing a fantastic and renowned bean. The complex profile of lime, honeycomb and hints of dark chocolate give your brew a bright, balanced and punchy flavour experience. ’ - DAVID, COFFEE ROASTER
As part of Cafédirect’s London Fields Range, we have sourced specialty Fairtrade and Organic certified coffee from three new origins, including Africa’s second largest country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This country is home to the Muungano Co-operative, where coffee is expertly grown high up in the mountains (1480-2000m above sea level) as well as around the shoreline of Lake Kivu.
Despite a history of civil war and subsequent turmoil to the country’s infrastructure, political stability and basic amenities, the Muungano co-operative has embodied its namesake of ‘togetherness’! Bringing both members from previously conflicting ethnic communities and genders together.
Historically, coffee was smuggled across into Rwanda and swapped for basic amenities, risking the lives of coffee farmers in the crossing of Lake Kivu. In fact, the Eastern Congo had previously been a Belgium colony until the Congo’s Independence in 1960, where there were the remnants of previous coffee plantations’ washing stations. The Muungano co-operative restored one of these abandoned washing stations to working order and began processing their coffee!
Ten years on since its beginnings in 2009 with 350 founding members, the co-operative has attracted almost 5000 members; a third of whom are women. Muungano co-operative is leading the way in gender equality, which is especially challenging in a country that traditionally does not support women to own land or to participate in governance. Muungano has established a women’s committee which champions strategic investment of premiums and direct payment to female coffee producers
This Spring, Muungano are excited to have installed their fourth coffee washing station. This additional washing station means that more coffee farmers can benefit from reducing the distance in which they need to transport the coffee cherries (often carried on their heads for several kilometers over steep terrain), improve the quality of their coffee and their livelihoods.