Producer Profiles

SOPACDI - Solidarite Promotion des Actions Café Development

The climatic and geographical conditions of the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo are ideal to grow high quality coffee. However, infrastructure and trade have been in decline since the 1960’s, when the country gained its independence from Belgium, and were fully destroyed in the years following the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Ongoing conflicts and violence caused many farmers to flee, abandoning their homes and coffee plantations. Producers who had nowhere else to go were forced to smuggle their coffee harvest out of the country to make a living. Today, although the situation is still unstable, many farmers are looking for means to rebuild their lives again through agriculture. Fair Trade coffee, which has already proven a powerful conflict resolution tool in other unstable regions, has the potential to provide farmers and communities with sustainable livelihoods.

Situated on the shores of Lake Kivu, SOPACDI (Solidarité Paysanne pour la Promotion des Actions Café et Développement Intégral) is one of few Congolese coffee cooperatives working with farmers affected by the regions constant struggles. With support from different organizations, led by Twin Trading, SOPACDI has built its capacity to produce and export coffee to the highest of international standards. Due to the dire situation of coffee farmers in East Congo, Fair Trade officials took the initiative to allow SOPACDI permission to trade on Fair Trade terms on the basis of a documentary inspection, as the smoldering conflict in the region prevented FLO-CERT inspectors from traveling into the country. The cooperative became the first Fair Trade certified entity in Congo, with over 3,200 members of which an estimated 600 are women.
 

Quotable

The premium we received is still small compared to our necessities, but it has already helped us with some basic needs. For the first time, we were able to get together and buy each woman farmer three kilograms of salt and two blocks of Tembo soap. We need more support to ensure women are able to build their individual capacity so we are better prepared to take care of our families. Congolese women often are alone on this journey.  

Immaculee Nimavu Musangi, Women Member

Programs

Improvements in Processing Infrastructure

Investments have been made at every level, including on farm coffee rehabilitation, processing infrastructure, and business and governance capacity. SOPACDI has built up its capacity to produce and export coffee of the highest international standard.

Women’s Committee

Like in many African countries, rural women play an important role in agriculture in the Congo. However, as most land is owned by men, they remain economically dependent and have limited access to credit. Over 600 of SOPACDI’s 3,200 producer members are women. Many of these women farmers are widows who have lost their husbands in the war or by drowning in their attempt to smuggle coffee across Lake Kivu.

From the outset, the cooperative has been concerned about the particular difficulties faced by these widows - the Woman’s Committee already has a representative on the organization's board. But now, SOPACDI plans to take matters a step further by incorporating gender equity in all SOPACDI’s activities and supporting the development of a market for woman’s coffee so that women farmers can benefit directly from the crops they produce.