In the rich volcanic soils that line the shores of Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, grow some of the world’s most exclusive arabica beans.

This area has the potential to be among the world's great coffee regions, but years of civil conflict have eroded the economic resilience of farming families and brought financial deprivation to many. Nearly 95% of households in the region are experiencing healthcare challenges and 45% do not have access to clean water.

In South Kivu, Olam already works with over 2,000 vulnerable smallholder farmers who live in this highly populated corridor between the Lake and the Kahuzi-Biega National Park. The Park, which is home to some of the last mountain gorillas, is under increasing pressure from bordering communities to meet their economic and social needs. Under the principles of AtSource Infinity, a unique collaboration with Olam, a major coffee roaster, World Conservation Society (WCS), TechnoServe and USAID, aims to make coffee a sustainable cash crop by improving livelihoods and biodiversity. The partnership will build on Olam’s existing efforts to reach 10,000 smallholders by 2024, while enhancing the ecological value of the park through community-led conservation efforts.

Creating transformative impact: 

Empowering farmers

10,000 coffee farmers from communities bordering the Kahuzi-Biega National Park will receive support to:

  • Increase productivity with training on Good Agricultural Practices such as direct planting techniques instead of tillage to improve soil health, free pruning services for four years, provision of over a million highly subsidised coffee seedlings to rejuvenate farms, and access to improved varieties promoted by National Agricultural Study and Research Institute (INERA).
  • Inter-crop farms with food crops like banana as additional food and income sources; fruit or native trees to provide shade; Calliandra, as an effective soil binder to prevent erosion; and small-livestock to provide organic fertiliser and a source of protein for farmers’ diets.
  • Improve coffee quality and incomes through post-harvest processing technical training and management.

Promoting healthier coffee communities

  • In collaboration with social enterprise Asili, the partnership delivers essential services in the region with improved affordable access to clean water and new medical facilities to provide better healthcare services to 5,000 – 10,000  members of local communities.
  • Gender inclusion and women’s leadership will be promoted within farmer training activities with microenterprise and microcredit solutions to support marginalised groups, namely women, youth, and indigenous peoples.

Regenerating coffee ecosystems

Deforestation, poaching and illegal mining will be reduced over 100,000 hectares of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park along Lake Kivu by:

  • Working with park authorities to sensitise the local population on the ecological value of the park and its resources, such as purified water extracted from the porous forest soils.
  • Mapping ecological hotspots for targeted interventions to protect biodiversity, supported by digital tools like the Olam Farmer Information System (OFIS).
  • Promoting regenerative techniques on farms to combat drastic soil erosion on the steep sloped coffee fields, including no tillage and planting perennial crops and strips of thick grass. 
  • Developing new methods to recycle coffee waste into organic resources: Using the discarded pulp to create by-products like cascara and organic compost, thereby avoiding methane emissions from anaerobic decomposition; producing and exploring the use of biochar for soil amendment, carbon sequestration, and waste-water filtering; and partnering with a local social enterprise to convert discarded coffee parchment into fire logs.