Just over a year ago I had the pleasure of visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where I met Gaudencia on her farm. She has been growing coffee for more than 50 years but had never had a chance to try it. We have previously bought some of her coffee and we brought back some capsules, a machine and a generator and it became for me a truly unforgettable moment as we watched her enjoy her first cup of her own coffee.
As CEO of a coffee company you might wonder why this experience was so memorable for me. Surely I get to visit coffee farmers regularly. However, what was so different about this occasion was how far Gaudencia has had to come to get her coffee out into the world.
Four decades ago, coffee was one of the DRC's top exports but after years of political and economic upheaval, many of its once famous coffee plantations have been destroyed. Today, the country's coffee industry is a shadow of what it once was (it's shrunk to a tenth of its former size) and this has devastated the lives of many hard-working communities.
Unfortunately, life is still extremely difficult in the DRC, with many basic things you and I take for granted lacking. Over half of households don't have access to safe drinking water and worse still 15% of children don't reach their fifth birthday because essential medical services are missing.
No compassionate person could fail to be moved, which is why I'm really pleased that we are including the DRC in our Reviving Origins program. We are now working in partnership with global non-profit TechnoServe and coffee trader Virunga Coffee/Olam International to support local farmers in the country's Kivu region to help them rebuild the lost coffee farms while bringing back to life one of the world's most exclusive and finest coffees.
But it's not all about the coffee. We're also investing one million CHF in affordable healthcare and clean water supplies through our partner The Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI). We plan to build 23 water access points, which will help halt cholera, as well as six health clinics in southern Kivu.
The support our Reviving Origins program provides is close to my heart – I'm proud of its achievements. This project is not only bringing back some of the world's best coffee so that you can discover and enjoy them around the world, it's also rebuilding opportunities in some of the world's hardest-hit rural communities.
I look forward to returning in the coming years to see the progress that is being made and to enjoy another cup of coffee with Gaudencia.