Clean Cook Stoves – Phase II

Maama Vanessa with new Clean Cookstove
Maama Vanessa with original cooking fire

The Namanyonyi Cooperative
 in Uganda is an interfaith community of Muslim, Christian and Jewish farmers who have put aside religious differences to produce a fine coffee called “Delicious Peace.”

The Clean Cook Stove project was born out of a climate change mitigation initiative brought to Namanyonyi Cooperative (formerly Mirembe Kawomera) in 2012. It began with planting trees. However, the trees were quickly devastated by the cooperative’s highly inefficient cooking methods.

The coop members knew that if they had more efficient ways to cook, they would lower their use of firewood. The Clean Cook Stoves were the solution. In the first phase of funding, we were able to provide Clean Cook Stoves to the most disadvantaged cooperative members. The first 44 stoves were built for the elderly, families with children, and single-parent families. This was completed by December of 2014.

Farida Wafidi with new clean cookstove

Farida Wafidi with new Clean Cook Stove

The objective of Phase I was to test the ability of the coop and staff to find local materials and train local craftsmen, creating ongoing jobs with a new Clean Cook Stove trade or industry. Funds were generated by coop board using their Fair Trade premium and by Thanksgiving Coffee Company’s sales rebate of $1.00/ pkg. added to Delicious Peace coffee purchases by supporters of interfaith work.

With Phase I successfully completed, we now enter Phase II: to complete the next 50 stoves for this year. It is our goal to continue to provide guidance and funding for a “smokeless kitchen” with a clean cook stove for every member of Namanyonyi Cooperative by the end of 2016.

Clean Cook Stove Benefits

Aisa Kainza with new Clean Cookstove

Aisa Kainza with new Clean Cook Stove

As a result of the Clean Cook Stove project, the rate of deforestation has been curbed. The newly planted trees can develop deep root systems which then allows the soil to become more fertile for food production as the trees bring up the water table. This rich soil further strengthens the coffee trees and other food crops grown for subsistence. This will improve food security for the area’s farmers by increasing the diversity of foods immediately available to farming families.

These stoves use 1/10 the fuel to produce a cooked meal, while the chimney directs smoke out of the kitchen, reducing the risks of respiratory disorders to all involved with cooking. They also reduce the risk of fire, given that the homes are made of dry banana fiber & grass-thatched roofs. This also lowers the chances of children getting burnt or even dying.

This project is designed to create a new indigenous industry. Over one million rural Ugandans use open fire kitchens in their highly flammable homes. Utilizing local materials and local craftsmen, this project will become a model for future funders. The Clean Cook Stoves are part Health Benefit, and part Climate change Mitigation, while also providing new employment opportunities. Scale will lower costs, increase the number of cook stoves builders, and form the basis of a new and healthier cultural norm.

Delicious_Peace_light-front_web Delicious_Peace_dark-front_web Delicious_Peace_Decaf_blend-front_web

Support this project by purchasing Delicious Peace Coffee. $0.50 per package sold will be used to fund Phase II of the Clean Cook Stove project.

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Origin Trip: Nicaragua 2015 – day 1

This coffee buying trip to Nicaragua marks the 30th year Thanksgiving Coffee has traveled to this beautiful country. It is also the first year that Thanksgiving Coffee is sending staff without the guidance and counseling of CEO Co-Founder Paul Katzeff.

The trip represents the “passing of the torch” to a new generation. It’s a generation that grew up with coffee as a medium for carrying the message of the people, their craftsmanship, and their hope for a better life through coffee cultivation.

Jacob and Jonah carried The Company message to the cooperatives that our mission, and the value we place on long term relationships, bridges generations. We are in this together, and prosperity for all is the common thread we value most.
– Paul Katzeff

Adventures at Origin: Nicaragua

Nic_2015_trip-mapJacob Long, Nicholas Hoskyns, and I (Jonah Katzeff) traveled together from March 23rd-27th. We visited first and second level coffee cooperatives that produce approximately 25% of our annual green coffee purchases. We cupped and selected our Nicaraguan coffees for 2015, met with cooperative leaders and farmers, and visited beautiful coffee farms.

We were received warmly everywhere. I am so grateful to the hundreds of hands that touch coffee, from the time it is picked to when it is exported. Our 2015 Nicaraguan coffees will be exceptional. The new harvest will be available starting in late May.

DAY ONE

Solcafe and Byron Corrales’ farm visit

Cupping-at-SolcafeCenocafen-cuppers

• We cupped the Solidaridad washed and dry-processed (natural) micro lots, along with Byron’s washed and dry-processed coffees in the morning at Solcafe- the dry mill that processes and exports coffees from first level cooperatives.

• Cecocafen is the second level cooperative that owns the dry mill and is the exporter for many first level cooperatives.

• They have constructed a new cupping lab that is much more spacious than the older one. It was interesting to see on this visit that three cupping labs had been moved to new locations.

Next-gen-with-tree

• We then traveled to Byron’s farm for a delicious lunch consisting of beets, carrots, squash, potatoes, cheese, tortillas, gallo pinto (rice and beans), and mini chicken tamales.

• After lunch, Jacob and I toured Byron’s two farms with Byron and his daughter, Sara.

• Byron showed us the tree where Paul, Byron, and Arnulfo (Byron’s grandfather) first agreed to work together 22 years ago (in the photo at left).

• We learned about some of the biodynamic techniques Byron is applying to the land.  Byron expressed that the 3 most important factors resulting in great coffee are: the producer/farmer, the quality of the soil, and the skill of the roaster.

• We also learned about some of the negative effects resulting from climate change on his coffee trees – fruit not ripening at all, or not ripening fully, and trees flowering now [end of March] when they typically flower in May.

Byron-with-goat

• Byron is taking action now by replacing older trees with ones that are more resistant to climate change. He is also planting more shade trees to protect the coffee trees from the sun.

• He expressed concern that if changes are not made now, there may be a lot less coffee in the future.

• We visited a small grove of a variety of pine trees (7 total) that Byron smuggled back from Brazil. There are no other varieties of this pine in Nicaragua.

• We then returned to Byron’s farm called Finca de Los Pinos and said our goodbyes to Byron’s parents, and returned to Matagalpa for the evening.

• We enjoyed pizza with the Corrales family in Matagalpa!

This story will continue in our next post, so check back soon!


The green coffee sourcing team:

Green_Team

Nicholas (on right) is the Managing Director of Etico. He organized our visit and traveled with us throughout the week. Nicholas was born in England, but Nicaragua is his adopted home after spending almost 25 years there! Etico imports our coffees from Nicaragua as well as green coffees from Guatemala, Mexico, Rwanda, and Uganda.

Jacob (second from right) is the Director of Coffee Control and Roastmaster at Thanksgiving Coffee. He is responsible for developing the roast profiles of all our single origins, blends, and decafs. He approves all the green coffees we purchase and ensures that the coffee roasted at Thanksgiving is consistent roast after roast.

Jonah (on left) works in Business Development and as an Account Manger. He serves in a variety of roles that include green coffee sourcing, managing the San Francisco Bay Area accounts, and special projects, as assigned by Senior Management.

Gauging Success by Access to Clean Water and Education

It’s hard to define what “success” is. We’re trying to do it all the time – to evaluate our efforts at Thanksgiving Coffee. We love this definition of success from our friends at Jhai Coffeehouse….
Image reposted from jhaitribe.tumblr.com
Clean-Water-800px

Jhai coffee house judges its success each year not by the amount of money earned but by the number of children who have access to clean water and hygiene education.

– Tyson Adams, Founder of Jhai Coffee House

Jhai Coffee’s Impact

Our partners at Jhai Coffee are making a huge impact in their community in Laos. In 16 months, Jhai Coffee has completed 21 community hygiene programs, installed 25 water filters and 7 clean water wells, which are providing thousands of schoolchildren with clean water. We’re proud to partner with Jhai coffee to roast their coffee in the United States!

Jhai’s Impact infographic re-posted from jhaicoffeehouse.com

Jhai-Coffee-Impact-Infographic

Building Clean Water Wells in Laos

Jhai Coffee Installing WellsEvery cup of Jhai Coffee makes a big difference. In Laos, diseases related to poor hygiene are the #2 killer of children under five years old. Our partners at Jhai Coffee are working to build a healthy community by directly supporting the installation of clean water wells and hygiene programs at schools in the region.

Jhai Coffee is also implementing farmer education and infrastructure to improve coffee quality and enable the community to receive maximum earnings for their hard work. Each cup you drink supports community health & sustainability projects in Laos. One dollar from every bag you purchase is donated to Jhai Coffee House to provide funding for their important work with the Jhai Coffee Farmer’s Cooperative.

We’ve set a goal of helping Jhai Coffee build a new clean-water well, which costs $600 to build. For every package that you buy, Thanksgiving Coffee will match an additional dollar of our own to fund this effort (up to $300). Let’s get this partnership off to a great start!

Try some Jhai Coffee in your next order!

Organically-produced coffee

re-posted from yirgacheffeunion.com

Organic Farming

No artificial additives, no chemical fertilizers, YCFCU’s coffee is so natural and 100% Organic. From the farm to your to your cup, its taste remains rare!

The Yirgacheffe region has a large natural forest cover, and  90% of the coffee farms can be found within these forests. The great forest cover provides organic fertilizer that contributes to YCFCU’s beautiful flavor profile. No artificial additives, no chemical fertilizers – the coffee is natural and 100% Organic.

A Trip to Africa: Day 9 -The Final Entry

In January 2014, CEO & Co-Founder Paul Katzeff traveled to Africa to meet with two of our producer cooperatives. In this blog series, Paul shares his experience in Uganda and Rwanda.

Like everything else in life, things change over time. This was a wonderful story of how one man had a vision and changed his community once he was able to act on his idea, which was to unite coffee growers with different religions into a Fair Trade Certified coffee cooperative. He realized that if the farmers were working together they could reap beneficial economic gains and improve the quality of their lives. Laura Wetzler, Program Director of Kalunu was working with the Jewish community in Mbale, and came to aid this vision of the community leader, JJ Keki. That was 11 years ago. Thanksgiving Coffee responded to Ms. Wetzler’s and JJ’s call for help, and we began to purchase their coffee and to sell it via telling the amazing story of this interfaith cooperative.

We told their story, purchased their coffee, and worked with the coop and its “Leadership” to help the story survive, and the Cooperative to flourish. However, over ten years, random and not so random events make things change, and PKC was no exception to this rule of life.

Poor leadership, predatory organizations that wanted to use the story for their own purposes, unethical business practices, and a complete disregard for transparency and record keeping by the Mirembe Kawomera Cooperative Board created a toxic environment for using a Fair Trade model to improve and meet the needs of the coffee farmers of the Mirembe Kawomera Cooperative

Thanksgiving Coffee Company lost its trust in the Cooperative as the leadership declared their intention to become independent from their parent second level cooperative, Gumutindo, the organization that provided them with Organic certification oversight and leadership training, financial pre financing of the coffee harvest. Fair Trade certification, quality control and export services. This departure made the small cooperative rogue outfit out of what was in the beginning, a collaborative effort with adequate oversight of both quality control and financial integrity.

We have always intended to support the farmers through the Cooperative. It is always about the farmers. The Cooperative is a business model that democratically facilitates business policy and the activities of trade. We have ended our relationship with PKC under its current leadership; lack of trust and too much financial risk is the reason. But, we have not abandoned the farmers who were being poorly served by their leadership.

The situation has evolved, changed and morphed into Phase II, a more mature phase with the lessons learned, being applied to build a new primary level cooperative with the same interfaith coffee farmers that once were nominal members of Mirembe Kawomera. The Vice President of the PKC Cooperative and the Organic Coffee Director have broken away from the original PKC and reunited with their parent cooperative, Gumutindo, to begin this year’s purchasing of green coffee from the very same farmers. Thanksgiving Coffee will evolve our role in the supply chain to support the changes that are occurring in the coffee community that was once the Mirembe Kawomera primary cooperative. We have committed to begin purchases for the 2015 crop, and the farmers have already delivered over 600 sacks of dry parchment coffee to the Gumutindo Cooperative for export.

We are in transition to a deeper and more economically valuable situation. It has evolved from what was once a fine interfaith vision with poor leadership at the Cooperative, to what we see as a real positive evolution for the farmers and for interfaith work. We will continue to sell Delicious Peace Coffee from the same inspired farmers, and we will continue to support their coffee production by selling their coffee under a duel banner which I will briefly explain and then leave for more detailed discussion as we learn about and grow into this new evolution over the next decade of interfaith and inter-tribal collaboration.

The decade of work in Mbale Uganda has taught us that the coffee farmers of the Mt. Elgon region, which comprise the PKC members, was composed not just of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, but also of the nine indigenous tribes of Uganda. The original idea of PKC highlighted interfaith cooperation among Jews, Christians and Muslims to create peace in the region, and therefore enable economic cooperation for the common good. Now we will begin our efforts to support their tribal communities, and learn about this aspect of the farmers lives, as well.

In sum, we are changing, because things on the ground have changed. We ask for your continued support of this coffee, as it is the fuel that drives our ability to carry on. It took a decade to discover the internal toxicity that one or two charismatic leaders can create with a weak board of directors, and when hubris from self importance leads to decisions that are ill advised and beyond the scope of abilities. This interfaith story of peace and community economic development is still alive.

We see a bright future for telling the story of the value of interfaith and tribal cooperation in the quest for improved living conditions for all.

Nothing remains the same for long, however “Not Just a Cup, But a Just Cup” will stay with us for as long as coffee farmers need a friend to promote a fair deal for their efforts to grow our favorite national drink- coffee.

— — —

Here are links to the first 9 parts of this story:

A Trip to Africa: Day 8 – Making the New Transparency Work

In January 2014, CEO & Co-Founder Paul Katzeff traveled to Africa to meet with two of our producer cooperatives. In this blog series, Paul shares his experience in Uganda and Rwanda.

The duplicity of The Coexist Foundation was ever on my mind while in Uganda. I felt betrayed by two young men in Washington DC. Tarek and Lance are the leaders of The Coexist Foundation. They came to us in early 2013, seeking a collaboration with the Thanksgiving Coffee Company. They presented the idea that they market and sell Mirembe Kawomera coffee in a coexist package. We were excited to have them come on board as promoters of this Interfaith Cooperatives coffee which we saw as our primary responsibility. Roasting the coffee for others to market and sell to their congregations, members and followers.

“Coexist came to us in early 2013, seeking a collaboration with the Thanksgiving Coffee Company.”

It has been a decade since we began promoting Mirembe Kawomera Coffee, and we have invested many hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring this story to the coffee world. Tarek and Lance, in numerous emails and phone conversations both encouraged and worried us as we moved forward with their private label package. We loved the idea that they were investing in a fully printed package, but we worried about their unwillingness to present Thanksgiving Coffee as the decade long carrier of the torch and promoter of the story and developer of the supply chain that created the improved quality we now roast. But we forged on with Coexist as they gave assurances to us that their only interest was to sell the coffee to raise funds for the school in Mbale.

When we were told that the 250 mystery sacks were sold to the Coexist Foundation by the cooperative two months before we arrived in Uganda, the mystery was no longer who were the bags of coffee for, but now the questions were; how did this happen, why did it happen, and what were the consequences going to be for this double betrayal of Thanksgiving by both the Cooperative and The Coexist Foundation.

The conversations led to these discoveries:

  1. The Coexist Foundation had used the film makers of the Documentary “Delicious Peace “, Ellen and Kurt to set up their own Film project and then sent a five person film crew with a script, to Mbale to create The Coexist Foundation Story of their discovery and adoption of this cooperative. Their video tells the story as if Thanksgiving Coffee never existed these past ten years.
  2. The president of the PKC Board had negotiated with the Coexist Foundation to sell this coffee without informing many on the Coop’s Board and in fact, there were no records of this coffee being purchased from the PKC coffee farmer members.
  3. Coexist had purchased coffee that could not be shown to be Certified Organic and was certainly not Fair Trade certified. They had paid a price that was far below the price Thanksgiving Coffee had paid for this years crop according to their General Manager.
  4. There was nothing we could do about the situation because the money had exchanged hands already.

“Our Story was being re-filmed and revised to replace our Brand with Coexists Brand.”

I concluded that our decade of work had been hijacked. Our Story was being re-filmed and revised to replace our Brand with Coexists Brand. They believed they could buy media, legal services and a coffee supply chain that Thanksgiving Coffee company had developed over a decade of investment in time, travel, expertise, and money to create. What to do was the question on my mind in Uganda on day 8. I could walk away from this Interfaith Story and punish the cooperative for their moral decay. I could confront Coexist and threaten to expose their deception and unethical business practices to their Board of Trustees, I could redouble my efforts to strengthen the PKC cooperative now that we had a ability to discuss all issues with openness and transparency. One thing for sure, I was going to stop in Washington DC on my way back to California to confront Terek and Lance and lay down my threats to expose them.

To make it real, here is a link to Coexists Current Blog. It tells the story as if cutting out the middle man (Direct Trade) was a good thing. But this is their way of justifying cutting out the Company that invested its money and time to develop this story. There is no mention of Thanksgiving Coffee whatsoever. They are spinning ” Direct Trade” as something that benefits farmers by putting more money in their pockets, but Coexist paid substantially less to the cooperative saving money so they could be more competitive on their wholesale price to their customers. In their eyes, Thanksgiving Coffee was a Middleman in the supply chain, instead of the creator and financial supporter of the chain.

The last chapter in this story is being written now and will be posted soon.

— — —

Here are links to the first 8 parts of this ongoing story:

A Trip to Africa: Day 7 – All Things Revealed

In January 2014, CEO & Co-Founder Paul Katzeff traveled to Africa to meet with two of our producer cooperatives. In this blog series, Paul shares his experience in Uganda and Rwanda.

It was revealed that the “mystery coffee” was scheduled to be shipped to Newark, New Jersey. The buyer was The Coexist Foundation, a British charity with offices in Washington DC.

Coexist_bumper-stickerThis knowledge thoroughly pissed me off…I was about as angry as a wasp being chased by a Zebra! But what good was anger? It was good for motivation to confront the duplicity while still in Uganda. And that is what we did.

We asked for a second meeting with the Cooperative Board to discuss the matter of the 250 sacks…being sold directly to one of Thanksgiving’s wholesale coffee accounts. That “customer” had become aware Mirembe Kawomera through the media’s reports on my company’s decade-long collaboration with Mirembe Kawomera Cooperative.

So, that was my beef. Why did the cooperative not see this end-around? Why did this important customer go around the roaster who they came to for a proposed collaboration?

There are always many stories in a screenplay, such as the one Nick and I found us in. And, we were in Uganda, about to be in a semi-barren second floor meeting room, just chairs and walls not yet painted.

Uganda_meetingWe sat together for three hours with the board and I expressed my surprise to learn that we had different ideas about our relationship and by open discussion, with many pointed questions (“where are the payment records for those coffees?”) and much talk about Transparency. Everybody knew something was wrong. There were those that were in on the deal and those who knew for the first time that “a deal went down” and they were not a part of it. There was a lot of discovery but nothing was revealed. No one got hurt in the scuffle. There were no indelible scars that would hinder future Trust developing.

Five concrete measures were decided on as a result of the conversations and cross conversations:

  1. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Thanksgiving Coffee Company and The Mirembe Kawomera Cooperative is needed so as to define the authorities and responsibilities, and the quantifiable goals and objectives of each Business.
  2. That the Cooperative members could produce four containers yearly and to be successful, it needed to have the financing to be able to purchase cherry or parchment from their members.
  1. The Washing Station needed to be expanded from being able to process one container to two containers by August 2014.
  1. Solar Driers needed to be installed to handle the increased volume of washed coffee.
  1. Thanksgiving Coffee had not expanded the roasted retail market in The USA to meet the needs of the cooperatives members. If Thanksgiving Coffee was to keep its exclusive relationship with the PK Cooperative, it was going to have to find homes for the three containers it did not purchase.

It was late afternoon and the heat of mid day was just a sweet memory. The sun was low and there was an orange tint to the air and everything solid and in the sunlight’s way. The meeting disbursed in a flurry of people going off in different directions amid the “good nights” and “see you tomorrows”. We covered a lot of ground during that meeting. It was a workout but through it I learned about the people I was going to be working with. We had discovered a “problem of ethics” and came to terms with no blame placed, and no sermons either. The room was filled with people who knew “when to leave well enough alone”. We all got it, so we moved on.

hotel_poolsideAnd so the long day ended at our very fancy hotel where JB and Juma joined us at the pool. JB is the Cooperatives GM and Juma is the Special Projects Director. They are payed by the cooperative to run the coop’s operations.

 

 

 

Sorry for the long delay, the next part of this ongoing story will be posted soon.

Here are links to the first 7 parts of this ongoing story:

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