Gorilla Coffee Alliance to Enhance Rural Livelihoods and Wildlife Conservation in the Democratic Republic of the 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.
Guillaume Le Cunff, CEO of Nespresso, said: “We’re incredibly proud to be joining this partnership to breathe new life into the region’s coffee industries and communities, which will foster vital economic growth while preserving local ecosystems in Kivu. Through our Reviving Origins program, we have been working to successfully revitalize production in several challenged coffee producing regions around the world since 2019, and we’re excited about the important projects underway in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We strongly believe that coffee can be a force for good, because it can help to shape communities and preserve landscapes, leaving a positive impact on the lives of people and nature.”
Vivek Verma, Managing Director and CEO of the OFI coffee business, said: “This ambitious alliance will be a real game changer for a region that has faced conflict, poverty, and natural disaster. Building on years of close collaboration with local farmers, we will help Kivu to build its reputation for exceptional coffee and make a real difference to long-term farmer revenues. But our vision goes far beyond coffee. With the help of our partners, we will bring innovation to local farming systems, helping to improve lives and livelihoods, regenerate soils, and protect precious biodiversity in the world’s second-largest tropical forest. And using the sustainability insights platform, AtSource, we will be able to monitor the progress we are making towards the desired social and environmental impact.”
The Gorilla Coffee Alliance, which is made possible due to the support of the American people through USAID in partnership with Nespresso’s Reviving Origins program and OFI, aims to revitalize coffee production in regions impacted by adversities ranging from climate change to conflict. The Alliance will train farmers in regenerative agriculture and help local entrepreneurs and farmers set up nurseries that provide high-quality coffee and shade-tree seedlings. It will also work with coffee washing stations to enable them to access finance and technical assistance that will improve their capacity to process coffee at quality levels demanded by Nespresso and other specialty markets. Participating washing stations are expected to double their output by 2026.
Taking a holistic approach, the Alliance will also work with local families to improve community resilience, health, and engagement. The initiative will build the entrepreneurial skills of young and Indigenous people, particularly in non-farming households, so they can start environmentally sustainable businesses. It will also train families in communities surrounding the forest to enable them to improve their nutritional status and financial literacy and plant kitchen gardens. Through the Asili platform, the Alliance will improve access to health clinics and clean water points. Lastly, it will help to mobilize existing community governance structures to support conservation and combat poaching, logging, and mining.
Deo Deo Kujirakwinja, WCS DRC Technical Director, said: “Engaging the community surrounding Kahuzi-Biega National Park is critical to protecting Grauer’s gorillas. The Gorilla Coffee Alliance will help ensure a future for these great apes, which are a key part of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s natural heritage.”
About Nestlé Nespresso
Nestlé Nespresso SA is the pioneer and reference for highest-quality portioned coffee. The company works with more than 120,000 farmers in 15 countries through its AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program to embed sustainability practices on farms and the surrounding landscapes. Launched in 2003 in collaboration with the NGO Rainforest Alliance, the program helps to improve the yield and quality of harvests, ensuring a sustainable supply of high-quality coffee and improving livelihoods of farmers and their communities. Headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, Nespresso operates in 82 countries and has over 13’900 employees. The global retail network currently operates 809 boutiques in 532 cities. For more information, visit the Nespresso corporate website: www.nestle-nespresso.com.
About Olam Food Ingredients
Olam Food Ingredients (OFI) is a new operating group born out of Olam International. OFI offers sustainable, natural, value-added food products and ingredients so that consumers can enjoy the healthy and indulgent products they love. It consists of Olam’s industry-leading businesses of Cocoa, Coffee, Edible Nuts, Spices and Dairy. OFI has built a unique global value chain presence including its own farms, farm-gate origination, and manufacturing facilities. OFI partners with customers, leveraging its complementary and differentiated portfolio of “on-trend” food products, to co-create solutions that anticipate and meet changing consumer preferences as demand increases for healthier food that’s traceable and sustainable.
OFI’s coffee business is one of the largest green coffee origin exporters in the world. It caters to all tastes and formats through managing coffee estates and through a sourcing network of farmers in South America, Africa, and Asia, supported by extensive processing capacity. Coffee LENS, standing for ‘Livelihoods, Education and Nature at Scale’, is OFI’s sustainability ambition for the future of coffee. It sets formal sustainability targets for 2025 across OFI’s global, direct coffee supply chain, covering 18 origins and a sourcing network of an estimated 424,000 farmers.
USAID is the world’s premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results. USAID works to help lift lives, build communities, and advance democracy. USAID’s work advances U.S. national security and economic prosperity, demonstrates American generosity, and promotes a path to recipient self-reliance and resilience. President John. F. Kennedy created the United States Agency for International Development by executive order in 1961 to lead the US government’s international development and humanitarian efforts.
Since DRC’s independence in 1960, USAID has partnered with the government and people to improve Congolese citizens’ quality of life, increase the effectiveness of national institutions, and strengthen the foundation for durable peace in eastern DRC. To read more about USAID’s work in the DRC, visit https://www.usaid.gov/democratic-republic-congo.
TechnoServe is a leader in harnessing the power of the private sector to help people lift themselves out of poverty. A non-profit organization operating in 30 countries, we work with hard-working men and women in the developing world to build competitive farms, businesses, and industries. By linking people to information, capital, and markets, we have helped millions to create lasting prosperity for their families and communities.
Founded over 50 years ago, TechnoServe has been named the #1 nonprofit for fighting poverty by an independent charity ratings agency. More information at: Facebook: @TechnoServe | Twitter: @TechnoServe | LinkedIn: @TechnoServe
About the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is a U.S. non-profit organization founded in 1895. Its mission is to preserve wildlife and wilderness by understanding critical problems, developing scientific solutions, and taking conservation actions that benefit nature and humanity. With more than a century of experience, long-term commitments in dozens of landscapes, a presence in more than 60 countries, and experience in the creation of more than 150 protected areas around the world, WCS has accumulated the biological knowledge, cultural understanding and partnerships needed to ensure that wild places and animal species thrive alongside local communities. Working with local communities and organizations, that knowledge is applied to address species, habitat, and ecosystem management issues critical to improving the quality of life of rural people whose livelihoods depend on the direct use of natural resources.
Asili, a co-creation between Eastern Congo Initiative, communities in Congo, and USAID, has been operating since 2014; providing essential services like healthcare and drinking water at radical levels of quality and prices the community can afford. Asili is already serving over 120,000 clients in the South Kivu province of the DRC and is in the process of growing its network to serve a total of 500,000 customers. In doing so, the entire social enterprise will become sustained by the revenues from clients and eliminating the need for ongoing philanthropic support. And if this can work in the DRC, it can be a blueprint for other fragile societies across the globe.