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The organization is located in the north west of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Bangui region, near the border with the Central African Republic (CAR). The Centre was initially created to develop the production of food crops and market surpluses, but in the early 1980s it diversified into the export of coffee. Located in an inaccessible area which was ravaged by years of war, (1996-2003), the Bwamanda cooperative is now the only major exporter of coffee from the Congo.
Twenty thousand small coffee producers are members of the cooperative, but its total influence extends to around 50,000 small farmers. CDI-Bwamanda’s main aim is to increase production of food crops on family farms in order to guarantee adequate food, both in terms of quality and quantity. The core objective of the project, therefore, is to diversify agricultural production with the cultivation of soya, maize, peanuts and palm oil as well as the development of poultry farming.
The cooperative exports two types of coffee, a « washed » Robusta”, in which the coffee cherries are processed using the wet process (pulping-fermentation-drying) in specialised centres. In addition, producers will also dry process a part of their crop on the farm, (the cherries are dried in the sun after they are harvested).
CDI coffee may only be transported during the rainy season, from May to December, by boat from the growing region to Kinshasa, where it is prepared for export. During the dry season between January and May transportation is not possible and the coffee therefore is warehoused in Kinshasa to await export.
CDI Bwamanda manages the running and supply of 8 hospitals and 110 community health centres in remote areas and in 1989 also established a mutual benefit organisation, to which currently 114,000 people belong. This medical service provides vital support for residents in the region.
450 wells have been dug to provide drinking water to the population and thus prevent disease. Finally, and pivotal to the whole project, is the education and continuing development of the community and the establishment of a literacy programme. This has been achieved firstly with the creation of a community radio station, "Radio Lendisa”, but particularly with the establishment of a network of schools.
Many plantations have been abandoned since 1997 because of the war and the population fled to live in the forests or to neighbouring countries. By increasing from 30 to 50% the incomes of small farmers, Fairtrade has helped maintain plantations at a time when they were disappearing in their dozens.