What inspired you to get into coffee?
Claude: Coffee was always part of my life. Growing up in Congo, I knew many people involved in farming and the coffee trade. Specifically after I moved to the US, I wanted to help the farmers find a better, more sustainable road to market.
James: Similarly, growing up in an Italian-American household, coffee was always part of my life. When I met Claude and he explained to me the path to market for the farmers in DR Congo, I thought there had to be a better way. Moreover, when I met the farmers, I was so overwhelmed with their desire to create a better life and their incredible positive nature. From that point on, I was hooked.
Can you tell us more about your relationship with the farmers?
Claude: We founded Amani with the goal of making the coffee trade for farmers in DR Congo more sustainable and to return the area (a very dangerous and violent region) to peace through economic development. In that effort, we formed our cooperative of 2200+ farmers, 850 of which are women and promised that we would always pay them fair and EQUAL wages. We believe that the best way for our farmers to thrive is to give them the opportunity to grow and reinvest in their region to further that effort.
James: So for our 3+ years, those 2200+ farmers have survived solely on what we have been able to create for them. That’s a pretty cool feeling, and we are only just getting started.
What has been your proudest moment with Amani?
Claude: We purchased our first container (42,000 lbs) produced by the cooperative in 2017. About 6 months later, I returned to Congo to work with the farmers and members of the Department of Agriculture. Upon arriving back to Lake Kivu area, I was greeted by the farmers and their families in the most joyful celebration. To see how grateful and happy these people were just to have the opportunity to earn a fair wage was truly inspiring.
What do you see for the future of Amani and your farmers?
James: From a business perspective, we are rolling out 4 new canned products and launching in grocery stores around the country. This is great news for our farmers as they are producing more coffee than ever and we are selling more than ever. We have been truly amazed by the overwhelming response from our customers and we thank them for making it all possible.
Our original mission statement was to “promote peace through economic development, one community at a time.” In the spirit of that, as we grow, we continue to add farmers to our cooperative and we continue to keep wages high and equal for all our members. We have aspirations of replicating this model across other coffee producing countries and making an exponential impact around the globe.