Congo – is one of Africa’s biggest countries but is still remains the real heart of darkness. The country is simultaneously very rich and very poor. It is rich in enormous natural resources, e.g. cop, diamonds, cobalt, tantalum or coltan. Yet, the country’s poverty results the fact that a very modest part f the proceeds generated from the exploitation of natural resources goes to the inhabitants of Congo who live in grinding poverty, often in rural areas and extremely primitive conditions. Nevertheless, the people of Congo are really hard-working and open to foreigners. For the last several decades Congo has been experiencing internal turmoil, often ignited by the fight for an access to its natural resources.
Coffee is primarily grown in the province of North Kivu, located at the border of Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. The landscape is mountainous and volcanic. The famous National Park Virunga, located in the neighbourhood of Goma, the capital of the province, is home to mountain gorillas and an active, still dangerous, volcano. The effects of the volcano’s eruption in 2002 are nowadays visible in most parts of Goma.
In the region of North Kivu both Robusta and Arabica, mainly the Bourbon type, are grown. Farms are typically small, family-owned and very modest. Farmers usually join cooperatives to share the cost of coffee processing machines. Thanks to the help of NGOs from all over the world, the quality of the produced beans has been systematically improving and more and more plantations are now able to produce speciality coffee.
Interestingly, coffee also contributes to the maintenance of the very fragile peace in this region of Africa. Demilitarised guerrillas are frequently encouraged to establish plantations, which appear to be a financially attractive alternative, enabling them to settle down, lead a normal life and stop killing for money.