Opening with sweet and tart aromas of blackberry jam, Swiss chocolate, and tamarind, this is an exceedingly drinkable cup. Look for bright notes of lemon thyme, mixed berries, and persimmon balanced by rich, chocolatey sweetness. The body is juicy, with a plum-like acidity that finishes gently with black tea and brown sugar.
4.5 Stars from Roast Ratings, April 2021!
Producer: Muungano Cooperative
Farm: 4,300+ Smallholders
Region: South Kivu
Altitude: 4,856-6,562 feet | 1,480-1,800 masl
Notes: Swiss Chocolate, Mixed Berry, Lemon
Certified Organic by OCIA. Imported by our friends at BD Imports.
Founded in 2009, Muungano Cooperative is comprised of about 4,400 smallholder farmers, nearly half of them women. Gender justice is a principal focus of the group, as is integrating farmers from different ethnic groups into the operation—“muungano” means “togetherness” in the Swahili language.
Muungano Cooperative is split into 16 sectors, with a cherry collection site and three washing stations—Kinieziere, Buchiro, and Nyabirehe—located on the Western shore of Lake Kivu. Heavy rainfall and mudslides make roads unreliable, leaving members of the coop to deliver their harvest to the collection site or one of the washing stations by boat.
Likewise, processed parchment must be loaded onto boats from the washing stations for the day-long voyage to the dry mill in Goma City.
Since members of the coop live up to 40km away, the cooperative pays for their transportation and is looking to build a fourth washing station to meet the needs of its growing membership. They are also hoping to increase the number of drying tables.
Muungano Cooperative continuously trains farmers on best agricultural practices and the impact that they have on quality. Still, old habits die hard, and Muungano is working diligently to mitigate the common local agricultural practice of “hoeing” the soil around the coffee trees, which exposes and thus kills microorganisms in the soil.
Julie, one of Muungano’s 16 agronomists, shared that some producers didn’t believe her when she told them that planting ground crops, composting, mulching, careful pruning, and avoiding turning the soil would improve yields. She purchased a small plot near one of the washing stations to demonstrate. Other producers started following suit once they saw how healthy her trees were.
The Women's Group
Nearly half of Muungano’s members are women. To join any sector's women's group, each of which has a leadership team, a woman has to be a member of Muungano, own land or have 100% responsibility for the land, and deliver coffee cherry to the washing station. They deliver twice per week and their coffee is separated into women-producer lots.
Some women said that before Muungano they wouldn't hurry to deliver their cherry, they would sell to anyone, they would get paid barely anything, and didn't know about good agricultural practices. Now they prune their trees, pick ripe cherry, compost, and are invested in quality.
The women's group established a program in 2017 to raise goats, which require very little investment and can easily be sold to supplement income, as goat meat is very popular in Congo.
Each sector also has a micro-finance program in which groups of 10-12 people each contribute at least 1,000 Congolese francs/week, which can then be withdrawn for large or unexpected expenses to help offset financial risk among the group.
Workshops on GALS (Gender Action Learning System) and "train the trainer" sessions help Muungano members teach each other long-term planning and resource management.
The biggest hurdle is changing a mindset about what you can accomplish, and how to plan for the future when living hand-to-mouth is the norm. Training starts with drawing a vision journey: members draw a picture of their goal, current system, opportunities, threats, and how they will go through each step, month by month, to achieve their goal. A common goal of the members' personal vision journeys is to go from a thatched-roof house to a house with a corrugated metal roof.
Muungano means “togetherness” in Swahili. From the strength of its board to the women’s groups to the GALS methodology and the enthusiasm of young agronomists like Julie, it’s clear that Muungano’s members have succeeded in banding together to produce amazing quality coffee and a strong community in an isolated region of a country wrought with challenge.