Enhancing rural livelihoods and wildlife conservation in congo
USAID, Nespresso, Olam Food Ingredients, TechnoServe, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and Asili will partner to support sustainable agriculture and rural enterprise to reduce threats to the critically endangered Grauer’s gorilla
South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo
The eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has seen years of economic and political turmoil, which has impacted the well-being of local communities and threatened the unique biodiversity of the area. Now, a new partnership will promote better livelihoods for local farmers and protect the region’s endemic and critically endangered Grauer’s gorilla.
The Gorilla Coffee Alliance was launched today by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); Nespresso; Olam Food Ingredients (ofi); international nonprofits, TechnoServe and the Wildlife Conservation Society; and Congolese social enterprise, Asili. Over five years, this initiative will partner with 8,500 farming households to improve their coffee production and sales and reduce poaching and deforestation around Kahuzi-Biega National Park in DRC’s South Kivu province.
“USAID’s launch of the Gorilla Coffee Alliance is a critical milestone for the U.S. Government’s partnership with the Congolese people and the product of over a decade of USAID’s investment in working alongside Congolese farmers to replant coffee trees in a conflict-ravaged region,” noted USAID DRC Mission Director Paul Sabatine. “Revitalizing DRC’s coffee sector makes me proud to coinvest alongside Nespresso and ofi, particularly given our common desire to promote sustainable livelihoods by protecting Congo’s wildlife and natural resources.”
Kahuzi-Biega National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the few remaining habitats of the world’s 6,800 estimated remaining eastern lowland or Grauer’s gorillas. But, political unrest, population growth, and the absence of sustainable economic opportunities in the area have put the national park and the wildlife it protects at risk from illegal logging, poaching, and mining.
The Gorilla Coffee Alliance aims to address this challenge by helping local families to establish environmentally sustainable ways to earn income, improving access to essential health services, and working with community institutions to become advocates for conserving the national park. The Alliance will improve total farm productivity to support farmer revenues and protect long-term soil health, biodiversity, and the vital ecological function of one of the world’s largest forests.
“The greatest force for conservation is a local community that is invested in protecting its natural resources,” said TechnoServe CEO and President William Warshauer. “We are excited to join these extraordinary partners and apply TechnoServe’s long experience supporting coffee-growing communities to help the people of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park area create healthy communities, sustainable economies, and a flourishing ecosystem.”
The environmentally sustainable production of coffee is central to this vision. South Kivu’s climate is well suited for growing high-quality coffee, and its sales in specialty coffee markets have increased in recent years. Around Kahuzi-Biega National Park, however, farmers struggle to access the training, high-quality coffee seedlings, and shade trees needed to improve their production; and many local coffee washing stations do not have enough capacity or technical ability to adequately process locally grown coffee.