Thirty years ago, this place looked very different.
Nestled in the foothills where the Amazon rainforest meets the towering Andes Mountains, the Peruvian town of San Martín de Pangoa exudes an aura of calm. Life seems to move at a leisurely pace; ambling through the town’s mostly-unpaved streets, you’ll see mototaxis rumble slowly past indigenous women cradling their babies in brightly-colored wool blankets. The hills rising above the town are patchworked with a lattice of small farms, and every moto and pickup truck seems to be laden with nearly-bursting sacks of coffee.
On a warm, breezy day in the sleepy Congolese city of Bukavu, I find myself on the back of a boda-boda motorcycle taxi, puttering down the unpaved city streets on my way to the National Office of Coffee. Down every alleyway I catch glimpses of the morning sun glimmering off of the calm waters of Lake Kivu. It’s the first day of “Saveur du Kivu,” a celebration of the reemergence of specialty coffee in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the country’s premier coffee event. I’m here representing Root Capital, which happens to be the largest coffee lender in the region.
On a summer evening in Cambridge, MA, author, educator, and former ambassador Swanee Hunt sat down with activist Chantal Kayitesi and Root Capital founder and CEO Willy Foote to discuss the important role that women have played in Rwanda’s recovery from conflict. Hunt is the author of Rwandan Women Rising, a book she wrote to celebrate the visionary women who are paving the road to Rwanda’s recovery and reconciliation in the wake of the 1994 genocide.
Looking out the window as my taxi jostles along a bumpy dirt road that winds from Goli to Ndrele town through the hills of the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), I’m struck by the peaceful scenery that surrounds us. Grassy hills spotted with groves of trees and small gardens of banana, maize, and coffee trees rise gently into the horizon, stretching for miles on either side of the road. However, this region’s apparent tranquility belies a violent past — and scars that a few scrappy businesses are fighting against all odds to heal.
Two years ago almost to the day, 60 Colombian musicians came together and released a song called “Un Paso Hacia la Paz” (“A Step Toward Peace”). Amid joggling maracas, an impassioned choir of pop stars, indigenous singers, and Vallenato musicians sing, “Así es como canta Colombia por la paz” (“This is how Colombia sings for peace”), urging for an end to the country’s 50-year armed conflict.
Fast-forward to today, and the peace Colombia sings for is finally within reach.