CoffeeBridge: Bridging Knowledge to the Field

The importance of Robusta coffee in the world coffee production and market is growing (see Coffee: An Important Cash Crop). This project wants to support Robusta coffee farmers by providing research that can support decision making on both farm and policy level. Specifically, the CoffeeBridge project will evaluate the agronomic and socio-economic potential of Robusta coffee genetic resources as a cash crop in the Congo Basin. 

In this project, expertise from different disciplines will be integrated in order to achieve several goals:

  1. Provide science-based advice for the revival of a sustainable Robusta coffee production in the Tshopo Province (DR Congo)
  2. Conserve the Congolese genetic diversity of Coffea canephora genetic resources and its wild relatives
  3. Develop a local, sustainable economy in a global context

This project will contribute, directly and indirectly, to the conservation and valorization of coffee genetic resources and several UN Sustainable Development Goals. Although this project is focusing on the Congo Basin and Tshopo Province in particular, the project will also contribute to broader coffee challenges.

The project has six work packages:

WP1: Management and coordination. 
This work package aims to coordinate, streamline and enhance the interaction between work package 2-5, the partners, BELSPO, the steering committee and the stakeholders. 

WP2: Socio-economic evaluation of Robusta.
The local coffee chain, its sociological dimensions and economic relevance will be evaluated by carrying out socio-economic surveys in the Tshopo Province.

WP3:  Characterization of wild and cultivated Robusta diversity.
This work package will perform a genetic, phenotypic, chemical and organoleptic study of the available genetic resources, hoping to identify new interesting Robusta coffee characteristics and genetic lines. This information can then be incorporated in breeding and cultivating activities locally and globally. 

WP4:  Agroforestry and soil fertility.
An agro-ecological evaluation of the existing cropping systems combined with the latest agroforestry research on Robusta coffee will result in recommendations to improve current agronomic practices and the cropping system in order to arrive at a sustainable and profitable coffee culture, as a cornerstone for the well-being of the local communities.

WP5: Research on historic sources and archives
Research in the (colonial) archives will allow to ‘recuperate’ knowledge on Robusta coffee kept in archives and grey literature, which can give information on the origin and ‘genetic’ identity of the cultivated Robusta coffee and on the successes and failures of the past.

WP6:  Integration of the results in order to formulate policy advice and a tool for the rehabilitation of the coffee cultivation in the Tshopo Province.

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Nicolo Saracco

Nele Van der Schueren

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