The Akawa Project, from Belgium’s Supremo, is currently holding a GoFundMe and other initiatives to jumpstart their impact in Burundi.
BY CHRIS RYAN
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Burundi is a tiny, landlocked nation in Eastern Africa, with Rwanda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo as its neighbors. While its natural climatic conditions allow it to produce world-class coffee, the nation’s smallholder coffee farmers face challenges—including infrastructure and low production—that make it difficult for them to earn a living wage through coffee.
It’s these challenges that the Akawa Project, a new initiative from Belgium-based trader Supremo, aims to address. The Akawa Project explains its a mission thusly in a statement on its website: “The main purpose of this program is to support coffee farmers in Burundi escaping poverty in a sustainable and economic viable way. We have planned a long-term program where farmers have the central role: They own the coffee plantations and are in the driving seat to improve their crops.”
Launching in May, the Akawa Project is a six-year initiative in which Supremo is working with a local partner, Succam, to provide on-the-ground implementation. To increase its impact, Supremo has launched a GoFundMe fundraiser for the project. “Our goal is to not only buy coffees responsibly, but participate in building a sustainable supply chain,” says Gustavo Magalhaes, Supremo’s supply chain coordinator. “Burundi’s export industry is not yet offering a great solution to farmers, so we feel we have to get involved and engage the wider coffee community in this project.”
Among the project’s initiatives that the GoFundMe drive will support:
- Securing coffee trees that are high-yielding and high in quality potential
- Funding agronomists and other agricultural experts to provide best agricultural practices training to farmers, blending with their intrinsic knowledge for a great result at the farm level
- Creating five hectares of model farms to demonstrate new practices to farmers
- Constructing a water treatment facility
In addition to the GoFundMe initiative, the Akawa Project is hosting a fundraising event on in September in Bruges, Belgium, to celebrate the launch. The event will provide a chance for supporters of the project to connect and discuss goals, with the program including informal presentations and Burundian coffee activities. Details of the fundraiser will be announced in the coming weeks on the project’s website.
The GoFundMe campaign ends August 8, coinciding with the end of Burundi’s coffee harvest. Gustavo says the project’s current target is to improve the livelihoods of 5,400 Burundi coffee farmers and their families, but the project hopes to expand to reach even more farmers. In addition to the GoFundMe efforts, Supremo hopes to obtain additional foundation or institutional funding support for the project to broaden its impact.
Gustavo acknowledges that the Akawa Project is an ambitious initiative, but he says this approach is required to make an impact. “The traditional initiatives are not giving the answers to the problems Burundian farmers face,” he says. “So we believe that direct action can be our answer.” He adds that this is an opportunity for the industry to collaborate to enhance the resilience of a unique origin. He also adds that the project, if successful, could unlock the amazing quality potential of Burundi coffee—a product that the global coffee industry has not experienced in its entirety. “The quality of the product is widely underestimated by the coffee industry,” he says. “Our message to the coffee industry is to be committed and act for the future of Burundian coffee, as there is huge potential.”