Virunga Coffee Company was established in 2011 by Schluter SA (now Olam Specialty Coffee Europe) with the vision
to: “Change lives in DRC through commerce in a mutually profitable way by being a major coffee actor in Kivu.”
Virunga Coffee aims to achieve this vision by improving the quality and yields for farmers in North and South Kivu, primarily through:
- Developing and implementing field-based support activities
- Introducing Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)
- Investing in processing infrastructure
- Organising assured organic production in close collaboration with over 2,300 farmers (with a further 1,500 by June 2020)
- Bringing an innovative spirit to the development of new products
As well as providing a stable supply chain and specialty market access, Virunga is actively involved in a number of sustainabilty and social programs in farming communities. These incldue an extensive tree planting program, disease prevention outreach to tackle critical diseases such as Ebola and HIV, and equipment to help farmers improve their agronomic practices.
Ripe cherries are delivered to the washing station for sorting and floatation to select only the ripest for processing. The cherries are de-pulped using a Penagos eco-pulper, fermented for 18-24 hours and then washed in clean water grading channels. Once thoroughly washed the parchment coffee is dried in the sun on raised African beds for 12-18 days, depending on climatic conditions.
In the daytime the parchment needs to be raked and turned periodically to ensure a consistent drying process and prevent mold or overfermentation. The coffee is also covered in the middle of the day to protect it from the hot sun, and at night time to protect it from rainall and moisture. Once the coffee has dried to the right level it is transported to Butembo for dry-milling, grading, sorting and handpicking (triage), before being bagged in GrainPro for export.
Hutwe village is located in the Kirumba region of Nord-Kivu (North of Lake Kivu), on the edge of Virunga National Park, bordered by Uganda to the east. The region has excellent conditions for speciality arabica production with plentiful rainfall, high altitude and highly fertile volcanic soils. The region is also very poverty-stricken and has had a severe lack of infrastructure which has made high quality arabica both difficult to produce and very challenging to export. Virunga Coffee Company has sought to overcome many of these problems through hands-on farmer education and investment in local infrastructure such as roads and bridges. This has allowed quality improvements every season and, in turn, higher premiums for farmers.