This coffee has an amazing story.
Idjwi Island is located in the middle of Lake Kivu, which serves as the border between Rwanda and the DRC. Over the last few decades this island has become a safe haven for refugees fleeing the genocide in Rwanda and also the ongoing civil war in the DRC, including many former child soldiers looking to start a new, peaceful life. This influx of people has created a host of new issues, as most people there suffer from malnutrition, lack access to clean water, healthcare, electricity, and education.
Enter our friends at Good Grounds Coffee. Good Grounds is an non-profit that was started by a couple (who happen to be UVA grads, go Hoos!) living in Rwanda when they discovered the situation on Idjwi. They knew that they needed to do something, and they realized they could help the locals build up a source of income on the island.
There were already a couple of coffee cooperatives made up of farmers that were former rebels and widows of rebels on the island. These farmers, often owning 20 or less coffee trees (producing 20 or less pounds of coffee a year), faced a massive problem–there was no mechanism for getting their coffee to market. The most popular way to sell the coffee was on the black market in Rwanda, where they would be paid approximately 1/3 of the value of the coffee and it was being misrepresented as “Rwandan Coffee.” The process was very dangerous, both in terms of physical travel and violence, and many farmers lost their lives in an attempt to provide for their families that ultimately left them cheated.
Good Grounds has stepped in and provided the safe and profitable mechanism that the farmers cooperatives needed to begin raising their standard of living, lifting themselves out of poverty. By forming a larger collective, they’ve been able to make arrangements to have their coffee processed, packed into a container, and shipped to roasters here in the U.S. that are willing to pay a premium for both the quality and mission of the coffee. The farmers are able to shift from subsistence farming to something much more stable. Equally as important, a choice is being given to child soldiers and rebels: lay down your guns, and you will be given a means to provide for yourselves and your families. Good grounds and their partner cooperatives give coffee seedlings and land to anyone willing to accept those terms, and they provide the agricultural know-how to make the partnership fruitful for all involved.
We could not be more proud to carry this coffee, as it is of exceptional quality and it has a tremendous impact at origin. The coffee being delivered today is from the very first container that the organization has brought into the U.S., and we are among the small handful of talented roasters with the awesome privilege to carry it. It is a BIG DEAL to have a direct trade, responsibly grown and sourced coffee from the DRC. It just doesn’t happen, ever, let alone one that is as high in quality as the Idjwi Island.
As a coffee company, we view ourselves as having not only the opportunity, but the responsibility to source the most ethical and sustainable coffee available, and we’re constantly working at ways to take it to the next level.