Richard running

Richard in training in his home town of Sheffield

‘I am aiming to run 100 kilometres in the course of the week. It will be an extraordinary opportunity to bring together my passions for Africa, for coffee, for working with people to promote development through trade, for mountains, and for running!’

Richard has put together some information on the Run Across Congo for the local press here in the UK. We thought it would be good to share on the blog too…

Richard Hide will this week travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo to take part in the Run Across Congo: a 7-day international running event through coffee farming communities, organised by Twin and On the Ground. The aims are to raise funds to support vital project work in the region and to raise awareness of the outstanding coffees now being grown in the Congo.

‘All my life I have run. I’m a regular at the Sheffield Hallam Parkrun and I love running out in the Peak District. This week I’m taking my running a little further afield – to the Congo. After meeting Chris Treter from On the Ground at a Trade Fair, we travelled to Kivu and whilst bumping along the potholed road in a pick-up truck Chris talked about the Ethiopia and Palestine runs. In matter of seconds the idea of the Run Across Congo was born.

I’ve been working with coffee farmers in the mountains of Africa and Latin America for more than 20 years. In 2008, I first set foot in the Kivu in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and discovered some of the most incredible people living and working in the toughest conditions I’d ever seen after decades of civil war. lake kivu

The region is stunningly beautiful but with a terrible recent past. At once I could see that growing and marketing fine arabica coffees could be a way to put that behind them. At this time there were no direct exports of coffee from the region, and there had been no investments in the coffee sector there for 50 years. Many people each year were drowning trying to smuggle their coffee by boat across Lake Kivu into Rwanda to barter for soap and basic necessities.

And so the work began…over the last seven years we’ve worked with farmer cooperatives and engaged with coffee importers and roasters, who have been blown away by what they have tasted. We have worked on helping the farmers to gain Fairtrade and organic certifications and to invest in the infrastructure needed to produce outstanding quality coffee.  The finest Congo coffees are starting to really make their mark in the specialty coffee world and thousands of farming families are beginning to believe in a better future.

WomenMuungano

On my travels to Kivu, I often see women farmers doing backbreaking work to produce coffee, but I know from trading coffee that these women do not necessarily even receive money for the sale of the coffee let alone have the power to make decisions about how it is spent.

I want people everywhere to understand the hard work that goes into producing coffee and for women to be paid for the work they do.  I think that the average coffee drinker understands how it feels if they are not being paid for the work they do, and can relate and understand the situation facing these farmers even if it is a million miles away.

The money raised on this Run will go towards helping women farmers to be empowered to make decisions about where their coffee income is spent, and also on business and finance training.

This Sunday, I’ll be part of an expedition of runners setting out for an incredible week’s journey through Congo’s coffee highlands. The core team are women who will run a marathon a day along the dust roads and mountain tracks. I’m not in that league, but I am aiming to run 100 kilometres in the course of the week.’

All funds raised from the Run Across Congo (24-30 May) will go directly to support women in the region through programmes that create access to knowledge, land, income and healthcare, enabling them to run their own lives and businesses. It will support the hospital that treats victims of sexual violence in the town of Lemera. Rape is used as a weapon of war in Congo and there are many women in need of help who often travel several days on foot to reach the hospital. The Run will also support the Virunga National Park Fallen Rangers Project, working with the widows and children of park rangers who have been killed defending the animals in the park from poachers. Finally, the Run will support work to enhance female ownership and participation in coffee through grassroots workshops with men and women.Read more here.

To support the Run Across Congo, please donate via JustGiving by texting ‘TWIN15 + AMOUNT’ to 70070 or online at www.virginmoneygiving.com/charities/twin

The Run will be followed by the first ever specialty coffee cupping competition in the DR Congo, Saveur du Kivu, which will take place on June 2 and 3. For the first time ever, an objective evaluation will occur of all traceable specialty coffees grown and processed in the DR Congo, allowing for both growers and international buyers to taste the specialty coffee harvest from throughout the country on one table.

Spread the word:

Saveur du Congo: http://www.runacrosscongo.org/coffee-tour/saveur-du-congo/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/runacrosscongo
Twitter: @RunAcrossCongo @RichardHide