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Meet the farmer: Inner Strength

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Inner Strength is the most recent addition to our annual ethical coffee series. This limited edition winter espresso has an important charity purpose:

Together, by supporting one another, we are stronger.

If you want to dive deeper into the Inner Strength campaign you can read more here.

IN THE CUP

Significant to the Inner Strength story is the speciality coffee itself, but also the people behind it. It’s a story we feel needs amplification and involves a cooperative in the Democratic Republic (DR) of the Congo which we want to share with you.

This year, the cup of Inner Strength brew you’re enjoying at home hails from the Women’s Section of the Coopade cooperative in Kirindera, DR Congo.

Benefitting from rich volcanic soils, ideal climatic conditions and altitudes reaching more than 2,000 meters, the coffees produced in this region are beginning to make their names known when it comes to quality coffee.

If you’ve tasted the coffee already, you’ll have enjoyed the stone-fruit acidity and warming aromatic spices that roll into a mouthwatering sweetness. If you haven’t tried Inner Strength yet, you’ve got the complexity and lingering sweetness of this brew to look forward to, particularly in an Americano or long black coffee.


But despite its flavourful taste, for the people behind the coffee, the journey to get Inner Strength from bean to cup is more challenging...

A politically difficult landscape for coffee growers

DR Congo is a politically difficult landscape for coffee growers. Armed groups target young people with limited opportunities and destabilise the region through horrific acts of brutality – including sexual violence – against the communities who live there.

Despite having the potential to become one of the richest countries in Africa due to its natural resources, DRC is one of the poorest countries in the world, and the situation continues to be turbulent in the east of the DRC.

Documentaries such as City Of Joy (currently on Netflix) which tells the stories of the rehabilitation of women raped by armed forces in the Congo, are a terrifying glimpse into the reality of life in the Congo.

Increasingly though, coffee is seen as an opportunity for the region.

Coffee cooperatives have helped reduce the risks for Congolese producers. By setting market prices and making connections with trusted partners, cooperatives can provide a more reliable, safer trade model than each producer acting alone. (1)

As part of the Virunga National Park coffee programme the Coopade cooperative in North Kivu, is all too familiar with the ravaging caused by the armed groups, which have plagued the area for more than 20 years. These groups operate by creating terror and confusion with the aim of controlling the region’s rich resources. In the 2018-19 harvest, two of the managers of Coopade’s washing stations were killed by armed groups and more than 175 Virunga National Park rangers have been killed in the course of their work to protect the mountain gorillas and other wildlife.

Through all this, the farmers in Coopade have maintained their strong sense of mission and determination to harness the amazing coffee they grow to bring peace, stability and prosperity to their communities. (2)

THE WOMEN'S SECTION OF COOPADE

In July 2016, the Virunga National Park coffee programme created a Women’s Section as part of the Coopade Cooperative. Its aim was to give women coffee farmers control over their coffee production, from growing through to the export.

The coffee they produce is separated, sold at a premium to boost their incomes and aptly named The Kirindera Women’s Peace Coffee.

The incredible women of the Women’s Section are using this coffee to make a stand against the ongoing atrocities in their region and create opportunities for young people to rebuild the communities in the Virunga National Park.

We’ve had a chance to speak to the women of Coopade, and to listen to their stories first hand. Look out for our upcoming stories featuring some of these inspirational women – we’re looking forward to sharing their stories told in their own words.

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