This month, Smithsonian Folkways recordings is releasing a new album by the coffee farmers of the Mirembe Kawomera (Delicious Peace) Fair Trade cooperative in Mbale, Uganda, who we’ve purchased coffee from since 2005. The CD is titled: “Delicious Peace: coffee, music & interfaith harmony in Uganda.”
Village guitar groups and women’s choirs sing to stress the transformative impact of Fair Trade prices and to encourage their neighbors to join the coffee cooperative. Accompanied with xylophone, drums, and other traditional instruments, these farmers sing of the benefits of interfaith cooperation and, through music, teach new cooperative members how to produce great coffee.
J. J. Keki, the founder of the cooperative, says: “Use whatever you have to create peace! If you have music, use your music to create peace. For us, we have coffee. We are using coffee to bring peace to the world.”
A guest post by Ellen Friedland, producer of the documentary film “Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean”
I remember the first full day of our initial trip to Uganda in October 2006 to produce a documentary about Mirembe Kawomera (“Delicious Peace”) Coffee Co-op. After three days of travel (one from NY to Europe, the second from there to Entebbe Airport, and the third by car up to the Mbale region), we enthusiastically showed up at the entrance of the coffee co-op’s clay-constructed storefront. We were eager to meet the legendary farmers who had formed a collective to bridge interfaith differences and generate economic development through a Fair Trade partnership with California-based buyer, roaster and seller Thanksgiving Coffee Company. Since we had been in touch via email for several months and the executive board had invited us to come, we were ready to break out the cameras following the handshakes and dive into work. Instead, the farmers asked that we sit down for a four-hour meeting that began with the question: “Why should we let you do this?”
At that moment, Curt looked at me and said, “You are the attorney. You can negotiate this. I’m going outside to take pictures. They may be the last ones we get!”
Now here it is, six and a half years after that meeting and three years after the premiere screening of Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean, and we are returning for our fifth trip, this time (as the last) with a group of friends in tow. Dual goals motivate this journey: (1) adding an extra 15-20 minutes of footage for a one-hour TV release focused on co-op updates and the impact of climate change on the farmers’ crops, and (2) introducing more American consumers to the work of the Mirembe Kawomera co-op, helping to spread awareness about their truly delicious coffee and the myriad families whose lives orbit around it.
In many respects, the first aim parallels corporate video production shoots we do around the world for many clients. We have done our homework and know what we want to record, all the necessary equipment is packed and ready to go, a basic schedule is in place, and we have the contact information for folks who will be crucial data-providers.
This assignment, however, comes with advance bonuses. We already have established friendships with farmers in the co-op, who are excited to help with the new phase of the project by devoting days of time when we are present to providing assistance; they understand and appreciate our role in helping to publicize their messages. And – New Yorkers — you know that excited feeling of being with out-of-towners who arrive in New York for the first time and stand in transcendental wonderment upon their initial ascent out of the subway? We will have the opportunity to experience that feeling through the eyes of our trip participants, multiple-fold, beginning with the moment our friend/tourguide Samson drives our group out of the airport onto the streets of Entebbe.
In response to the farmers’ initial question in 2006, I promised a long-term, mutual partnership in which success would be shared. I promised we would produce, complete, and screen the documentary. I said this would be an important avenue to spread the message of the work they are doing to bridge interfaith differences and educate coffee consumers about the hard work of farmers dedicated to specialty coffee production so that purchasing decisions reflect that knowledge. I told them that a successful documentary will trigger interest in their coffee. I told them that we have always established long-term friendships with the people who are the subjects of documentaries we undertake – as we have often done with our corporate video production clients.
Almost seven years later, the documentary has screened (and continues to do so) at over 35 international film festivals with a TV debut in the near future. We have partnered with a distributor committed to creating local educational “Peace Party” screenings around the country. Countless people have watched the program and learned about the important work of the farmers – many are busy talking about it on social media avenues everyday. And we are going back again to visit our friends and continue to develop the informational base.
We’re grateful the farmers took a leap of faith with us and proud to have earned their trust. T-5 days until we are off to Uganda!
Purchase coffees from the Mirembe Kawomera Cooperative and support their livelihoods:
We are happy to announce that our partners at the Peace Kawomera Cooperative have just received notice that their climate change adaptation project has been approved for funding by the Dutch NGO Progreso! This exciting news comes on the heels of three years of hard work developing a community-based plan to protect coffee production, and ensure sustainable livelihoods through the diversification of income, restoration of the local ecosystem, and increasing levels of food security. With deep gratitude for the support of Progreso, the leadership of Peace Kawomera, and the support from our loyal customers, Thanksgiving Coffee would like to raise a toast to what it means to live in a world where we are all connected, and where we invest in and enjoy the rewards of shared responsibility and mutual benefit.
Please read below for a description of the project, written by Peace Kawomera’s Chief Agronomist John Bosco Birenge.
Peace Kawomera is a coffee farmer cooperative located on one of the slopes of Mt. Elgon in eastern Uganda, near the city of Mbale. It is farmer owned and run by the management staff and Board of Directors. It started in 2004 dealing mainly in coffee production while selling it to their sole buyer in the USA Thanksgiving Coffee Company.
Since then, coffee production has been increasing alongside farmgate prices to cooperative members. The cooperative has begun to diversify to other cash crops like vanilla and cocoa, all of which grow as intercrops within the main coffee plantings. The farmers are now grouped into 25-member Farmer Field Groups, totaling 63 farmer groups in all.
“We thank you for purchasing our coffee. The price you pay enables us to send our children to school.” — Mrs. Florence Namaja Wabire.
Though farmers have been growing these crops, they seemed not to realize the negative effects of their other activities on the environment. In 2010 coffee production plummeted, as did food production. There is also growing awareness of the negative impacts of climate change which include increasingly unpredictable differentiation between wet and dry season, increasingly intense rains and flooding, longer and prolonged dry periods, as well as subsequent changes in the local ecosystem. Additionally, there is a growing awareness of the more localized negative impacts caused by farmers’ activities such as:
Deforestation for cooking/charcoal production
Brick making and firing
Poor disposal of wastes i.e. in water streams and bodies.
The above few mentioned activities have affected not only cash crop production but also have a huge and significant negative impact on food crops. Specifically these activities have lead to deterioration in soil fertility, and have affected water quality in the area’s watershed.
It is expected that the impacts of climate change will continue to disrupt local weather patterns, both extending dry periods and intensifying wet periods. The impact of these erratic changes in weather will make it difficult for farmers to plan and manage their farms, and it will increase the likelihood of losses due to drought, flooding and landslides, and disruptions in the normal crop cycle of coffee.
Farmers Eias Hasalube and Hakim Aziz beneath the canopy of Mr. Aziz’s restored coffee farm.
Given the above, the farmers are searching for strategies they can employ to adapt to these changes without sacrificing their livelihoods. This is happening at the time when farmers are anxious to reap a lot out of their coffee due to its regaining reputation on the international scene, increasing market price and increasing differential and quality premium through the specialty coffee market and the good price from US-based Thanksgiving Coffee Company, a buyer since 2004.
The above-mentioned activities of environmental degradation are mainly driven by economic need arising from high rates of unemployment locally. Therefore, this project seeks a two-pronged strategy to increase the value and production of shade grown coffee, and interventions to fortify the ecosystem against the impacts of shifting weather by planting valuable grasses in swale formation, increasing the intercropping of strategically important shade trees in coffee plantations, and reforestation of hill tops and ridges to create a conducive micro climate for coffee. This fortified ecosystem will be better able to protect coffee from severe rains because of increased canopy cover, and will be able to reduce erosion by controlling runoff. Additionally, through the selection of appropriate shade trees, the project will increase the production of high-mulching organic matter which will improve soil quality, a critical step towards improved coffee quality and production, as well creating habitat for the biological control agents here referred to as natural enemies of the pests.
Agro forestry provides additional sources of income especially from sales of fruits from the planted trees, sale of harvested grasses from swales, sale of firewood and of seedlings from the nurseries to other communities.
Agronomist and project leader JB Birenge demonstrates simple construction of living barriers used to control erosion.
This will also reduce the gap of unemployment and improve on food security for the area’s farmers by increasing the diversity of foods immediately available to farming families. Protecting and restoring the environment will reduce the impacts of climate change, enhance biodiversity, and improve on ecological systems which are all aimed at improving coffee production and food security.
The project will be built around a package of incentives designed to facilitate and inspire quick uptake in action by individual farmers. The methodology will be driven by the established network and practice of the Farmer Field Schools. Led by the project manager, a team will create local seedling nurseries and begin the process of educating individual farmers through the FFS groups. After an 6 month period, the leading farmer in each FFS group (determined by objective pre-established criteria around tree planting, swale construction, soil and water conservation) will be given a female goat. These goats produce manure which is high in nitrogen which can be incorporated back into the fields for improved soil fertility. After an additional 6 months the next leading farmer in each FFS Group will be rewarded a goat based upon the established criteria. These goats will be expected to reproduce so as time goes on, the kids will be given out to other members who come second, i.e. responsibility will be upon farmers to know that if such a farmer`s goat kids, the offspring will be expected to be designated by the project to the next recipient farmer. This process of review and award will be conducted 4 times (6, 12, 18, and 24 months. It is estimated that the project will need to purchase 252 female goats (63 FFS Groupsx4 cycles) to get the inventive program off the ground and to a point of self-sustainability.
Nathan Watadena points to land that is targeted for reforestation and restoration.
PROBLEM STATEMENT AND GOALS
Peace Kawomera’s livelihood is coffee produced on the slopes of Mt. Elgon between 1300 – 1700 meters above sea level. They are farmers whose staple foods are cereal crops but also keep some livestock they have diversified to vanilla and of recent though faint cocoa plants. But in amidst all these, farmers have realized the effects of climate change and how it is affecting their first crop which is coffee.
A survey conducted with 12 farmer groups noted that rains come late, and are now more erratic where by the rainy and dry seasons are harsher than ever, this has made it difficult for them to cope with the increased un employment rate which has led to youths making mud bricks for money, stone quarrying, cutting trees for timber and firewood to burn bricks all these leaving coffee plants in the bare environment. Therefore, this project must protect the farmer’s livelihood. This will ensure sustainability of coffee production, food security and better understanding of the ecosystems that work hand in hand.
1 Ensure long term sustainability of coffee farming with focus on quality production.
2 Improve biodiversity
3 Improve on food security.
4 Improve on water quality (water sheds).
5 Improve on soil quality.
6 To create a sense of responsibility towards environment.
7 Educate farmers on positive and negative impact of various economic activities
Diversify economic activity and income generation through promotion of environmentally preferable activities
When the 2008 harvest coffee arrived at our warehouse in July of this year we tasted the fruits of a four year partnership that was really working. The coffee was sweeter than ever before with a new found clarity and complexity that demonstrated the unique character of the beans. This beautiful new crop, coupled with the news that Peace Kawomera had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with USAID and leveraged a $250,000 grant for the construction of a central washing station, was proof that four years of hard work, trust, and transparency was paying off. The Coop is taking major strides forward. In honor of this progress we began giving the coffee line a bit of a makeover. First there were new brochures, with pictures and quotes from six farmers representing the different faiths. We want you to see not just one but many of the faces that are growing your delicious coffee. Narrowing the gap between grower and consumer is an important aspect of building a more just economy, it’s what makes the farmers’ market so wonderful and now we are applying it to the global market as well.
Over the last few years many of us have become very attached to the package label image of the little boy in front of a wall displaying etchings of the three symbols of interfaith cooperation that Peace Kawomera is best known for. This project has grown up with that little boy as the cooperative has grown from 250 to over 1,000 farmers. But now, in light of the progress we have seen, it’s time to introduce you to more faces in the community you support when you buy Mirembe Kawomera “Delicious Peace” Cofee. Each type of Mirembe Kawomera Coffee: light, dark, and decaf will now have a new unique label.
Mirembe Kawomera Light
This is a picture of Deena Shadrack. She is a leader in the Abayudaya (Jewish) community and has served on its board of directors. Deena is a strong advocate for womens’ rights, a coffee farmer, and a mother to many. She is pictured here holding a ripe jackfruit.
Mirembe Kawomera Dark
The woman pictured here is Hadija Wankusi. She is a prominent singer in the Muslim community and a leader in the choir. The choir uses song to teach the community about issues such as health and fair trade. Hadija’s home is is across the street from the Abayudaya synagogue on Nabogoye Hill. She’s been a long time friend to the Abayudaya and a bridge builder among the different faiths. Her daughter, Sanina, serves on the Peace Kawomera board of directors and represents the perspective of women and youth.
Mirembe Kawomera Decaf
The students pictured here attend the Nankusi Elementary School, the local public school. Most of these students are the children of farmers in the Peace Kawomera cooperative. Through a combination of the social premium, a payment that is built into the rules of Fair Trade, and the rebate system that we have set up directly with the Cooperative, Peace Kawomera paid for a renovation at this school that resulted in a new roof. The income received by farmers goes to pay for uniforms, books, and fees for the students.
We are thrilled to introduce you to more members of the Cooperative and anticipate that our labels will be revolving so that you will continue to see new faces of the beautiful people growing your Delicious Peace.
Exciting news from Uganda this morning: after nearly 2 years of project development, The Peace Kawomera Cooperative is about to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the US Agency for International Development (the development wing of the State Department) for a $250,000 infrastructure development project.
Just writing those words is a little surreal. Itâ€™s been a long time coming, three trips to Uganda, countless hours meeting, emailing, listening to each other on scratchy internet and cell phones. Most of all, itâ€™s been a tireless effort led by JJ Keki and Muhammed Kakaire Hatibu, Peace Kawomeraâ€™s Chairman and Secretary Manager, respectively.
The project will finance the construction of a world-class coffee processing and storage facility, which will avail the farmers with the best tools of the coffee trade. Now, for the first time in the history of coffee cultivation in Uganda, farmers will be able to bring out the full potential of their heirloom Bugisu Arabica varietals. The Cooperative will collect freshly picked, ripe cherries, and then control the process of depulping, fermenting, washing, and drying in a centralized facility. Based on the development of similar processing techniques in neighboring Kenya and Rwanda (where PKC recently visited our partner cooperative there to study the operation of a central washing station, read more), we expect the washing station to dramatically improve the quality of the farmersâ€™ coffee. And weâ€™re looking forward to paying more for each pound of coffee we buy.
None of this would be possible if it were not for the support of our loyal customers, who not only lined up to build a market for this young cooperativeâ€™s coffee, but also enlisted the power of their coffee buying dollars, through our profit sharing partnership, and over the past 5 years, raised over $100,000 which bought the land and building materials that gave USAID the confidence they needed to invest further in this remarkable endeavor.
Recently, we made some big changes in our project, and transitioned into a new phase of our partnership with the farmers. Instead of $1.00 per pound or package sold going back to Uganda, we dropped the rebate to $.25. At the same time, we increased the price to the farmers by $.20/lb. We hope to completely phase out the profit-sharing overtime, and replace it with ever increasing prices to the farmers. Please also note that we expect volumes to increase (because of clear price incentives and actual investment in increasing yields through better organic farming practices, pruning, and planting techniques). Instead of creating a continuing subsidy, we created a kind of front-loaded capital fund. This money sustained the rapid growth of a young cooperative, and got them to solid ground. Now they are up and running, and ready to grow.
Itâ€™s almost too sweet to believeâ€¦but then it gets even better. Two days ago, arrival samples from our two incoming containers (75,000 lbs) arrived. I roasted them immediately, and cupped them yesterday. They are great. Sweeter than ever before, with more clarity and complexity, and a fuller expression of their unique character. All of this was made possible by better management of coffee buying, which the cooperative initiated themselves. And this was using their old machinery and processing methodsâ€¦if the coffee is already improving this much, imagine how it will taste next year!
Many thanks to Laura Wetzler and Kulanu.org for their tireless work and for forging the initial connection with the Uganda-based USAID office. As with everything weâ€™ve been able to do in Uganda, none of this would be possible without your contribution.
You+coffee you love+farmers who love their coffee+a roasting company who loves farmers+4 years of hard work=
Good coffee getting better+Farmers working smarter not harder+Incomes increasing+An interfaith peace-making initiative moving forward.
Thatâ€™s an equation weâ€™re really proud of. Not just a cup, but a just cup.
“synthroid and erectile dysfunction” Gout And Hypoparathyroidism And Lasix viagra jokes
viagra discount Buy Nolvadex female use of viagra
female version of viagra? Prilosec Vs Nexium how to get viagra!
herbal remedy for erectile dysfunction Zoloft Zoloft zocor erectile dysfunction
robin williams viagra Cipro For Uti explore advances in male impotence treatments
viagra perscription online Order Cialis male hormone dhea impotence levels
will ferrell erectile dysfunction Clomid Success Rate ed treatment with ginko
erectile dysfunction pills evaluated! Zoloft Generic non prescription viagra
cialis viagra Generic Cialis Softtab male impotence age
cigarette smoking causing male impotence Propecia Rogaine the latest treatment for ed
most effective ed treatment? Who Should Not Take Nexium actos erectile dysfunction
viagra prices Prednisone 10 Mg use of viagra
“marijuana and viagra” Soma Carisoprodol cheapest cialis erectile dysfunction pill
erectile dysfunction medication Guys With Longhair Propecia taking viagra?
cheap herbal viagra Prozac And Pregnancy herbal ed treatment
viagra commercial canyon! Cialis Generic India “natural treatment of ed”
cialis or viagra Nexium Dosage massage and erectile dysfunction
nasal spray for male impotence Cialis Attorney Columbus male impotence and fellatio
symptoms of erectile dysfunction Prednisone Indications 20 Mg heart disease and erectile dysfunction
lipitor and erectile dysfunction Lexapro Vs Cymbalta erectile dysfunction and pravastatin
“male impotence pumps vacu” Cialis Uk cost of viagra
female forcing male sexual impotence Does Zoloft Cause Weight Gain actos erectile dysfunction
accounting treatment for sr ed Prednisone Burst Laryngitis male impotence due to surgery
lamictal erectile dysfunction Clomid Late Ovulation buy viagra online;
recreational viagra use Nexium Side Effects erectile dysfunction link suggest
non prescription viagra Prednisone Without A Prescription viagra times
viagra soft tabs Lexapro Antidepressant erectile dysfunction ed treatment
u 3312 viagra cialis; Prednisone Laryngitis yohimbie bark and male impotence
facts male impotence psychological effects Prednisone Not Stopping Itching lexapro erectile dysfunction
erectile dysfunction symptoms; Lipitor Vs Zocor “straighttalk net erectile dysfunction review”
male impotence and solutions Side Affects Of Lipitor newest transdermal treatment for ed;
“tricor erectile dysfunction” Cialis Dosage erectile dysfunction exercise
viagra and cialis Clomid Without Prescription how to take viagra
cialis medication erectile dysfunction Lasix California accupril and erectile dysfunction
viagra herb alternative Cipro Dose Cat make your own viagra
electronic ed treatment Viagra Cialis management of erectile dysfunction
buy viagra soft online Zoloft Negative Side Effects accounting treatment sr ed ias;
traditional chinese medicine erectile dysfunction treatment Clomid Success Stories erectile dysfunction teatment
zestril erectile dysfunction Generic Lipitor viagra pill
pravachol and erectile dysfunction Purepac Prednisone solutions to male impotence?
holistic ed treatment Zoloft And Pregnancy causes of erectile dysfunction
“cialis vs viagra” Quitting Prozac lowest price generic viagra,
seduced amanda and viagra; Lipitor Generic viva viagra!
zestril erectile dysfunction Zoloft Akathisias Ed tropical treatment free download research ed vacuum treatment 48.
“synthroid and erectile dysfunction” Prices Cialis viagra jokes
viagra discount Is Ultracet A Narcotic female use of viagra
female version of viagra? Generic Cialis Cheap how to get viagra!
herbal remedy for erectile dysfunction Prednisone And Asthma zocor erectile dysfunction
robin williams viagra Does Cialis Work explore advances in male impotence treatments
viagra perscription online Prednisone Tremors male hormone dhea impotence levels
will ferrell erectile dysfunction Lexapro Side Effects ed treatment with ginko
erectile dysfunction pills evaluated! Effects Of Lexapro non prescription viagra
cialis viagra Dangers Of Cipro And Supplements male impotence age
cigarette smoking causing male impotence Known Side-effects Of Zoloft the latest treatment for ed
most effective ed treatment? Cipro Kidney Side-effects actos erectile dysfunction
viagra prices Buy Cialis Online use of viagra
“marijuana and viagra” Medication And Prednisone cheapest cialis erectile dysfunction pill
erectile dysfunction medication Cheapest Price For Cialis taking viagra?
cheap herbal viagra Levitra Attorneys herbal ed treatment
viagra commercial canyon! Zoloft Pregnancy “natural treatment of ed”
cialis or viagra Cialis Without Prescription massage and erectile dysfunction
nasal spray for male impotence Prednisone Homopathic Replacement male impotence and fellatio
symptoms of erectile dysfunction Nolvadex Profile heart disease and erectile dysfunction
lipitor and erectile dysfunction Zoloft Withdrawel Weight Less erectile dysfunction and pravastatin
“male impotence pumps vacu” Prednisone Arthritus Relief Cat cost of viagra
female forcing male sexual impotence Cialis Side Effects actos erectile dysfunction
accounting treatment for sr ed Cialis Forum male impotence due to surgery
lamictal erectile dysfunction Cialis Faq buy viagra online;
recreational viagra use Prednisone Homeopathic Replacement erectile dysfunction link suggest
non prescription viagra Lipitor 45 viagra times
viagra soft tabs What Is Prednisone Used For erectile dysfunction ed treatment
u 3312 viagra cialis; Cialis Lowest Price yohimbie bark and male impotence
facts male impotence psychological effects Simcor Vs Lipitor lexapro erectile dysfunction
erectile dysfunction symptoms; Lexapro Withdrawl “straighttalk net erectile dysfunction review”
male impotence and solutions Prozac Side Effect newest transdermal treatment for ed;
“tricor erectile dysfunction” Prozac Maker erectile dysfunction exercise
viagra and cialis Lipitor Throat Irritation how to take viagra
cialis medication erectile dysfunction Order Levitra accupril and erectile dysfunction
viagra herb alternative Side Effects Of Drug Lexapro make your own viagra
electronic ed treatment Cheaest Cialis Professional management of erectile dysfunction
buy viagra soft online Dosage Veterinary Prednisone Dog accounting treatment sr ed ias;
traditional chinese medicine erectile dysfunction treatment Warfarin Zoloft erectile dysfunction teatment
zestril erectile dysfunction Esophageal Dyphagia Nexium viagra pill
pravachol and erectile dysfunction Discount Cialis solutions to male impotence?
holistic ed treatment Buy Cialis Online Now causes of erectile dysfunction
“cialis vs viagra” Prozac For Dogs lowest price generic viagra,
seduced amanda and viagra; Cialis Propafenone viva viagra!
zestril erectile dysfunction Buy Rimonabant Ed tropical treatment free download research ed vacuum treatment 48.
“synthroid and erectile dysfunction” Cialis Dose viagra jokes
viagra discount Zoloft Vs Paxil female use of viagra
female version of viagra? Prozac Weight Loss how to get viagra!
herbal remedy for erectile dysfunction Cialis Online zocor erectile dysfunction
robin williams viagra Cipro 500 Mg explore advances in male impotence treatments
Cross posted on the Thanksgiving Coffee Company Blog
Every once in a while we get to see history in the making. Itâ€™s one of the most exciting parts of our work, and the fact that we get to enjoy seeing it happen makes it all that much more sweet.
Last week, one of those incredible moments came to pass. A delegation of two farmers from our partner cooperative in Uganda visited our partner cooperative in Rwanda. Muhammed Kakaire Hatibu and Elias Hasalube made the two day-long trip overland from the Peace Kawomera Cooperative in Eastern Uganda to visit the Dukunde Kawa Cooperative, high in the mountains of northern Rwanda.
The trip was a chance for the leadership of Peace Kawomera to study the operation of Dukunde Kawaâ€™s world-class central washing station, and to share their knowledge of organic farming practices with their compatriots in Rwanda.
Beginning over three years ago, Peace Kawomera embarked on a process to completely change the way they processed coffee: instead of each of the cooperativeâ€™s farmers picking, depulping, fermenting, washing, and drying on their own farms, the cooperative would build a central washing station where farmers would bring freshly harvested ripe cherries to be processed in daily lots.
The advantages of this more centralized processing are many: quality, for one, is much easier to achieve as the intricacies of the production process can be fine-tuned, controlled, and replicated. Lots can be processed separately, and evaluated before being aggregated, which makes it possible to trace back problems and keep them from bringing great quality down. Experiments can be conducted, and the many variables of production can be fine-tuned. There are also real environmental benefits as the sugar-contaminated water thatâ€™s a by-product of the processing can be centralized and treated more thoroughly. Then there are the economic advantages, which come from the efficiencies achieved through scale in the production process. All told, the central washing station provides a strategy to improve quality, reduce pollution, and increase farmer incomes.
There are of course, many challenges. Number one, thereâ€™s the cost of the washing station. Number two, thereâ€™s the necessary proper management and operation. The cost issue is major, but thanks to our innovative profit-sharing partnership with the cooperative, weâ€™ve been able to channel over $100,000 (albeit slowly, in small increments) to the cooperative. These funds enabled the purchase of land, building materials, and labor to get the project off the ground. The washing stationâ€™s completion will be supported in large part thanks to a US Agency for International Development grant/loan package thatâ€™s nearly completed.
Which leaves us with the last remaining challenge: how do you run this thing? Policies need to be established, standards need to be set, staff needs to be hired and trainedâ€¦.farmers need to be convinced that they should sell ripe cherry instead of dried beans. Incentivized strategies need to be developed. Where do you start?
Well, if youâ€™re in Uganda, you might as well go ask your neighbor for a little help. Turns out the farmers in Rwanda are about 6 years into a very successful experience running washing stations built to confront the same challenges and produce the same results. So, off they wentâ€¦farmer to farmer, teaching, learning, sharing experiences and support.
Iâ€™m waiting for some photos of the exchange, and look forward to sharing them with you on this blog soon. Thanks to each of you whoâ€™ve contributed to this project through your purchase of our Mirembe Kawomera â€œDelicious Peaceâ€ Coffee. I look forward to sharing even sweeter coffee with you soon!
I hit the ground running over here at TCC. I’m starting to feel a little more settled – particularly as I have encounters with more of the folks who actively support this project.
A few minutes ago our company COO handed me our Year to Date Sales Report. This document is not usually something that clearly outlines data for Mirembe Kawomera coffee specifically. As you know, Mirembe Kawomera is sold in synagogues, churches, and mosques, and by student groups and community clubs. It is only available in a very limited way in retail stores (locally here in Harvest Market and Safeway, in L.A. at Cafe Etcetera, and the occasional other place). Mostly we rely on people to spread the story directly to their communities so that it remains authentic and isn’t lost on a store shelf.
We have been successful in creating a great and diverse grassroots network of support with lots of accounts, but for the most part Mirembe Kawomera coffee is sold by small groups doing their part. Indiviual Mirembe Kawomera accounts don’t often end up on the list of top sales company wide.
I was THRILLED to see that occupying the number 50 spot on our list of top customers in sales to date this year was the Jewish Reconstructionist Community from Evanston, IL. I just put a call in to congratulate them on their efforts. Elaine pointed out that they have been involved with the project for long enough now that it mostly carries itself. Folks that buy coffee just do it at the synagogue now instead of at the grocery store. It doesn’t require tremendous effort from anyone. They have integrated it Â into their community so it isn’t actually a project. Mirembe Kawomera is just the coffee they all buy regularly.
The vision for this project is big. In the last four years the Peace Kawomera Co-op has tripled their coffee harvest. The group of participating farmers has grown from 300ish to about 1,000. They are growing faster than we can keep up with and there are more farmers waiting to be included in the Cooperative as soon as we are able to sell all of their current output. The Jewish Reconstructionist Community’s efforts reaffirm that we really can do this all together.
People uniting to buy a mountain of coffee. It is happening. You are all making it possible.
Thank you for all that you do.
Yours in peace,
Several months ago I received a call from Charles London, a freelance writer who discovered the Peace Kawomera Cooperative after doing some research on the Abayudaya (Jews of Uganda).
“Hello, my name is Charles and I’m interested in writing a story about the Peace Kawomera Cooperative for O Magazine.”
“O, as in Overstock? O, as in Oh? Or O as in Oprah?” I asked. I was in a bit of shock.
Chuckling on the other end, he replied, “Yes, O as in Oprah.”
Thus it started.
I first met Charles at Tufts University. He went to Tufts to celebrate with us as we received the Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award. He also came to meet our February/March touring delegation, which included 4 farmers from the Peace Kawomera Cooperative. After spending some time together in Boston, Charles joined the farmers, Ben, and me on a bus as we traveled from Boston to NY. On the ride, he interviewed each of the farmers, Ben and me. We had a lot of fun as he got to know us, and we got to know him.
As we continued with the tour, Charles continued on to Uganda. He visited the members of the Peace Kawomera Cooperative, their farms and schools, and learned about the coffee project from the ground. He is a brilliant writer with a good heart.
The end result: a new friendship, and an article in August’s edition of O Magazine. Here is the link: http://www.oprah.com/article/omagazine/200808_omag_coffee/1
Sales have been much slower than we hoped for, but many people have called in response to the article with an interest to get involved. Only time will tell, but with the arrival of the new crop just before the article hit, and our new website launched, good things are on our side.
If you read this, please forward it on. Let’s start a new campaign of telling everyone we know about this article and the courageous farmers of the Peace Kawomera Cooperative. Encourage your friends to buy a bag or two, and even look into starting a buying club in your community if you haven’t already done so. Together is the only way we can sustain the peace building efforts of the Peace Kawomera Cooperative.
All the best, and have a great weekend!
As I’ve written elsewhere on this blog, our work, and fair trade in general is about relationships. When it boils down to it, relationships are what hold this model together and what make it so powerful. Relationships shape this complicated and layered global economic exchange and mold it in the image of community, transform the blind, exploitative, and unsustainable relationships of times past and heal them.
So it’s a great joy to see those relationships deepening, like I have over the past week. Far away, in the east of Uganda, a delegation from the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation of Evanston (Illinois) is visiting the Peace Kawomera Cooperative.
Our friend Rabbi Brant Rosen has been keeping an account on his blog, Shalom Rav.
Here’s an excerpt:
Iâ€™ve written extensively about Mirembe on this blog – largely because I have just been so inspired by the example they set for us. I truly believe that the folks at this modest coop in Uganda are, in their way, showing the rest of the world how to live.
(Brant’s posted a few more times on JRC’s visit to the cooperative, and also on their experience in Rwanda where they are involved with a number of truly inspiring projects…so please take a minute to read backwards and forwards from the link above!)
Also, another member of the JRC delegation, Hannah Gelder, is keeping a blog where she wrote about her experience with Peace Kawomera. Check it out here.
Thanks to our friends at JRC who have made this project such an important part of their community. You’d be hard pressed to find a cup of coffee at their synagogue that’s not fair trade from the farmers of the Peace Kawomera, or make it through a community event without running into someone (probably with the last name Waxman!) hawking packages for people to take home.
And if this sounds exciting, amazing, and fun…why don’t you get your community involved?
Yours in Peace,
To all our dear supporters & coffee lovers:
So happy to share the good news that after much wait and anticipation, the new crop Ugandan coffee has traversed the Atlantic Ocean, cleared customs, and arrived at our roastery in northern California! AND IT’S DELICIOUS!
The mood when the first of the year’s coffee arrives is kind of like the frenzy around the year’s first Beaujolais. People converge in the tasting room, our head roaster Charles tries to settle everyone down so he can pay attention to the 100 gram sample he’s roasting to perfection, and we all bump into each other waiting for the first cup to brew. It’s inevitably been a long wait, with at least one or two snags in the road, some anxiety, and a good amount of anticipation.
This year’s coffee is the best we’ve had from the Peace Kawomera Cooperative. It’s character (some combination of nutty richness and a strong vanilla and spice note) is enhanced. The light roast is sweet, and almost chocolaty. The dark roast is strong, with a little bit of a smoky punch, and a sweet finish. Hats off to the farmers, who continue to refine their production and quality control mechanism. Quality is the goal of our work, and we’ve put a lot of time in on the ground in Uganda tinkering with fermentation times, drying techniques, sorting, and cupping. See my post from 2006 for more on that story.
We’ve got a little bit more newsâ€”the introduction of a re-designed package. We thought we’d wait for the new coffee to introduce it’s new clothes, so here it is:
Director of National Sales and Organizing Holly Moskowitz with a sack of the new coffee, and a package from our first production run.
Yours in Peace (and with some great coffee!)