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Saveur du Kivu - DRC Coffee on the Rise

[The following was originally published in June 2018 by ELAN RDC, a UKAID market development project in the DRC and one of our partners for the annual Saveur du Kivu.]


Saveur du Kivu (SduK) is a celebration of the reemergence of coffee in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As the specialty coffee cupping competition and annual meeting for representatives throughout the international supply chain, the event supports the construction of DRC’s specialty coffee industry, producing some of the world's finest Arabica coffee.


DRC Coffee


The event’s results speak for themselves having grown the event to now attract around 200 participants in the current edition, collecting 73 qualified coffee samples that adhere to globally accepted industry standards, up from 30 in 2016 and helping grow Congolese coffee exports by over 25% since the first Saveur du Kivu.


Saveur du Kivu was first conceived in 2015 by Higher Grounds Trading CoTwin TradingEastern Congo Initiative (ECI), USAID-funded Kahawa Bora Ya Kivu (KBYK), partners throughout the donor and technical assistance community, and the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as an event that would celebrate progress and promote collaboration and collective action to realize a more inclusive, competitive, and reliable coffee sector.  Initially led by those noted above, ELAN RDC has been involved in supporting and guiding the group to integrate perspectives throughout the value chain to highlight the importance of the many interdependent relationships that are key to realizing SduK’s vision and foster stronger ties for actors at each stage of the vale chain and expand the industry-wide marketing effort.


With the participation of representatives from producer groups (cooperatives), national government, international technical assistance and donor communities, and global coffee buyers, trust, from face-to-face interactions, can be built throughout the entire supply chain, further supporting the reemergence of a sustainable specialty coffee industry in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This is realized through collective efforts to improve trust through transparency through interventions such as the Congo Coffee Atlas, ELAN’s Digital Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Campaign, traceability systems, and the grander effort to significantly increase visibility for all actors, and improve the quality and flow of information to all actors throughout the value chain.


Historically, Congo’s coffee sector has had strong and reliable actors throughout the value chain. Unfortunately, systemic constraints, instability, crop-specific disease, and a lack of key information for buyers to navigate the market and establish direct trade linkages have slowed progress and led to a decline in what was once DRC’s second most valuable export at its peak in the 1980s. Official Congolese coffee production fell from about 130,000 metric tons in the 1980s to about 11,000 metric tons in 2016, according to one of Congo’s major exporters, CoffeeLac. However, in recent years, regulatory reforms, industry-wide coordinated efforts to promote the adoption and proliferation of best practices, and investments leading to the introduction of improved tools and equipment have dramatically shifted direction. As Congo’s coffee crops are reemerging as stronger, more reliable, and of higher quality, the value chains and actors are becoming ever more inclusive and collaborative.


After launching Saveur du Kivu in 2015, the 2018 edition from June 11-13 in Bukavu, the fourth iteration, has evolved from principally focusing on producers to supporting inclusive and collaborative discussions between the public and private sectors and includes all voices throughout the value chain—from producers to roasters and retailers. This celebration of progress and annual specialty coffee cupping competition have become a staple event for producers, exporters, buyers, regulators, and the donor community.

Along the way, the architects of direct trade coffees including Counter CultureIntelligentsia, and Stumptown, as well as other leading coffee companies such as Higher Grounds Trading Co.,  Kivu CoffeeLetSequoia, Starbucks, Strauss CoffeeTwin Trading, have been deepening their engagement with producers and exporters, leading to increased sourcing of Congolese coffees and better telling the story of Congolese coffee and culture. This is the dividend for Congolese coffee from the investment in trust over the past few years at SduK.

Through the four years of evolution, Saveur du Kivu has institutionalized itself as an event that is no longer exclusively a donor-driven event into an industry-driven event that is led by stakeholders who are willing to assume costs associated with representation and attendance due to value realized year on year, and their desire to engage with actors during the annual celebration during Saveur du Kivu.

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SduK by the numbers

·       IFCCA was softly launched at 2017 SduK and has now been formally established as an industry-led association of women in coffee and cocoa. IFCCA is leading the planning and production of this year’s exposition—a first for SduK.

·       Over 25%: Growth in Congolese coffee exports since the first SduK

·       50,000: Number of farmers in eastern Congo already members of coffee-growing cooperatives

·       70: Qualified coffee samples collected in 2018 that adhere to globally accepted industry standards, up from 30 in 2016

·       100+: Number of legitimate and registered washing stations; an increase from 7 in 2011

·       ~200: Number of SduK attendees this year alone