New Project Supports Climate Change Adaptation in Uganda

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.

Project Introduction

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:

Stone quarrying

Deforestation for cooking/charcoal production

Brick making and firing

Bush burning

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.

Project Strategy

 

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.

GOALS

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

A New Year of Positive Growth for Mirembe

2009 was a busy year for the Mirembe Project and 2010 is shaping up to be even busier. A feature in Smithsonian Folkways Magazine, new computers for the PK Cooperative management, and a showcase of Mirembe Kawomera “Delicious Peace” coffee at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City has gotten this year off to a rolling start. This project continues to grow, build, and change and you are an integral part of it. Thank you for your continued support.

PKC Gets New Computers

In December, I sent an appeal to some of our supporters asking that they consider donating money to the Cooperative to support the purchase of new computers for PKC’s growing staff. This was a unique request from Thanksgiving Coffee. Ordinarily, we don’t have channels to manage supporters’ charitable donations. However, in this case there was a very specific need from the Cooperative and we were able to coordinate a community leader to spearhead this effort. Many thanks to Debbie in San Jose for being the central point of organization and for the final effort to make sure the money made it to Atlanta in time to be carried to Uganda. Six communities came together to support this fundraising effort. We were successful in raising $885, enough to purchase two new desktop systems for the Coop’s seven person staff!

On January 31st, a friend to Thanksgiving Coffee Company as well as the PK Coop, carried $455 to Uganda and later this week $430 more will be wired from Evanston, IL.

We are so grateful to the folks that came forward to support this effort: the Jewish Reconstructionist Community of Evanston, the Unitarian Universalists Congregation in Santa Rosa, Congregation Hakafa in Winnetka, the Center for Spiritual Living in San Jose, Temple Beth Hatfiloh in Olympia, University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, and a few individuals.

On behalf of the folks at the Cooperative, many many many thanks! These new computers will aid in significant improvements in operations and organization.

Mirembe Kawomera “Delicious Peace” featured at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival

The Wild & Scenic Film Festival is an annual event in Nevada City. Over the course of three days, hundreds of environmentally focused films are shown – from features like Food, Inc. to smaller independent work such as Tapped (a compelling film highlighting issues with the plastic water bottle industry and water rights). Thanksgiving Coffee Company was approached to be a sponsor and we realized this festival was a great fit and a great location to promote Mirembe Kawomera “Delicious Peace” coffee as well as the trailer for the upcoming documentary “Delicious Peace Grows in a Uganda Coffee Bean” by independent film makers Ellen Friedland and Curt Fissel. 2-wild-and-scenic

Mirembe Kawomera Delicious Peace coffee was served all weekend at five concession venues around town and the trailer was shown three times with Jenais and Ben available to speak briefly at two of the showings. The audience was enthusiastic about the coffee, the project, and the trailer.

Learn more about the festival and view the four minute trailer that was edited specifically for Wild & Scenic 2010.

The Music of PKC Highlighted in Smithsonian Folkways Magazine

For the last few years, our friend, Rabbi Jeffrey Summit from Tufts University, has made three trips to visit the farmers at the Peace Kawomera Cooperative. One primary focus has been field recording the music of PKC’s coffee farmers. Rabbi Summit recently wrote a piece for Smithsonian Folkways Magazine about his work. It’s a great article about music as a means to communicate information, some of the challenges of trying to record in the field, as well as the tremendous labor required by the farmers. Below is an excerpt from his piece but please take a look at the full article:

3-field-recording“There is only one way for an excellent cup of Mirembe Kawomera coffee to get to my kitchen in Massachusetts, and it starts with a farmer in eastern Uganda walking into the field, looking carefully at a coffee tree, and picking the scattered coffee cherries that have ripened. Time is of the essence: cherries must be picked within a three–to–four–day window of ripeness. After picking, the cherries are sorted, washed, hand–pulped, dried, picked over, and bagged to be taken to the cooperative office. My fieldwork has made me acutely aware of this web of connection between us and coffee farmers in Uganda…”
– “Mirembe Kawomera (Delicious Peace) Coffee, Music and Interfaith Harmony in Uganda” Jeffrey Summit, Smithsonian Folkways Magazine, Winter 2010

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Mirembe Kawomera meets hip-hop’s heavyhitter Brother Ali

In my unique position of creating a person-to-person market for Mirembe Kawomera “Delicious Peace” I get lots of suggestions for growth strategy. “Do you know who you should really talk to? (Fill in the blank with famous celebrity-activist name).” Sure. I’d love to talk to that person, just tell me how to reach them.

Early last week, my mother suggested I get in touch with Brother Ali, an amazing hip hop artist whose work I’ve been following since 2004. She had heard an interview with Brother Ali on NPR and, like so many of his fans, was drawn to his thoughtful messaging about loving ourselves, our neighbors, and promoting peace. The values on which the Mirembe project has developed and Brother Ali’s positive messages certainly have a lot in common. I thanked her for the suggestion and then went about my business. How could I actually reach him?

Historically, this project has had little success cold calling big name people. I went to Ali’s website and checked out his tour schedule for the promotion of his new album Us – one I had already bought and had been listening to (the track Crown Jewel particularly) on repeat for the better part of a week. On Friday, October 16, he was going to be performing in Santa Cruz (not exactly a stone’s throw from Fort Bragg but a feasible location nonetheless). I had never seen Brother Ali live, he would be performing with other Rhymesayers artists: Tokie Wright and Evidence of Dilated Peoples. Best case scenario I would maybe get a minute of Ali’s time to tell him about the work we were doing. Worst case scenario I’d catch some underground hip-hop.

The five hour drive to Santa Cruz was well worth the show. It can be hard to find great hip hop performances these days. Beats are over-produced, MC’s are arrogant, and rhymes lack substance….this show had none of that. BK-One spun great beats all night and Tokie, Evidence and Brother Ali all rocked the mic.

Best still was that all of those guys came right out to chat up fans when the show was over. And Brother Ali took my hand and gave me his full attention for a few minutes (in spite of being surrounded by adoring fans making all kinds of requests for autographs, photographs, hand shakes etc). He seemed genuinely enthusiastic about our work and the project. He encouraged me to post to his site and said he would try to get in touch – so far no response to my post yet. Even if nothing comes of it, I really have to give Ali a lot of respect for his sincerity and focus and messaging. We would all be better people if we listened to his words and tried to put them into action in our lives.

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President’s Blend

Lest you think that we forgot about the inauguration of Barack Obama, the incredible groundswell of community-based organizing his campaign inspired, or the hope that peace may be back in style…

It’s our pleasure to introduce you to the President’s Blend: Coffee For Change

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Available in limited quantities in honor of Barack Obama’s inauguration on January 20th as the 44th President of the United States of America.

Buy now

O Magazine!

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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

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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!

Holly

Gumutindo in the News

Our friends at TWIN Trading (UK) just passed me a link to a recent article from London’s “The Observer”. In it, journalist Andrew Purvis explores the history of the Gumutindo Cooperative Union (of which Peace Kawomera is one of ten member-cooperatives), and the story of coffee in Uganda in general. It’s a great read, and illuminates a lot of the history of where Peace Kawomera came from, and the farmer-led movement transforming Uganda’s coffee trade.

“Yet, ironically, these people – deprived of everything – had one resource that the whole world wanted: coffee, grown at high altitude on the fertile slopes of Mount Elgon, which was virtually indistinguishable from its famous Kenyan counterpart. Unable to export their beans legally, farmers traded them on the black market – and Kenya, a two-day trek from the Konokoyi valley where I am standing now, was their conduit to the coffee-drinking world.”

Read the entire article.

Also, check out Mr. Purvis’ blog for his thoughts on the real reasons why fair trade matters.

Here’s to the farmers, whose remarkable story continues to inspire me, and hopefully you too!

In Peace,

Ben

Africa’s Future?

There’s been a lot of attention recently to the international food crisis. Suddenly, it seems, we’re recognizing that even after decades of work on the issue, the most fundamental human right is still out of reach for hundreds of millions of people around the world. It’s becoming apparent that the consequences of climate change and population growth are creating some very difficult problems, and that these combine with a host of other political, economic, and ecological challenges to create complex and urgent crisis: people are hungry, and food security for a significant number of the world’s population is a long way off. In the last couple of days, a lot of attention has been put on the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) gathering in Rome. Much of the attention has been on a variety of side issues, including the extravagant menu offered to the government officials and dignitaries gathered, and on the continued abuse of power by Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s president (if that’s a word I can use to describe his role, which is clearly that of a dictator).

Rising food costs directly effect the farmers of the Peace Kawomera Cooperative. Though most grow a significant portion of their own food on their farms (along with their coffee), many buy some percentage of their food, especially grains (either wheat bread or rice) in town. Rising costs make it difficult for the farmers to feed their families, and spread their earnings from coffee all too thin. Underneath this challenge though, is a situation many decades in the making: for years, coffee has been the only lucrative crop, so farmers have invested in coffee, and moved away from growing food. But though their incomes have increased, their ability to provide for their family with the extra money their earning is starting to decline. It’s been two steps forward, and now a step backward.

How did this happen?

We could spend a lot of time pointing fingers, and the truth is that there are more guilty parties than we can count. Failed UN efforts, corruption, war, climate change, and the collapse of stable markets are just a few of the leading suspects. What’s clear is that prioritizing the needs of farmers and their families has long since lost traction in the world’s circles of power. Large-scale solutions such as liberalizing government policy (ie privatizing and reducing trade barriers) have exposed farmers to the hardest-hitting competition in the world, and as one would expect, the big guys win pretty quickly. A Ugandan farmer trying to make a profit on her surplus corn is in a bad way when she is selling to a market that’s controlled by giant American multinationals, and supplied by giant industrialized farms in the US cornbelt that are heavily subsidized by American tax dollars. So, for farmers like the 754 members of Peace Kawomera, the last 20 years have seen a decline in crop prices, which means three things: one, it’s harder to make a living growing food, two, it’s cheaper to buy food, it makes more sense to grow cash crops like coffee, which don’t face competition from subsidized production elsewhere.

This, for many economists, is a good thing. Specialization (those who grow corn best grow corn, those who don’t shouldn’t) should calibrate the economy towards efficiency. Farmers in Uganda should grow coffee, and sell it to farmers in Iowa who grow corn, and visa-versa. Farmers took this philosophical and economic bait and ate it too (who wouldn’t, it’s a rational choice considering the options—work to grow crops to sell and then make very little money, or give up those crops and buy food at the new cheap prices). As food got cheaper, farmers started to grow less, and buy more. But then things changed. Food prices have skyrocketed, and now, farmers are faced with food prices that are beyond their means.

The UN’s recent call to action is a dramatic attempt to stave off disaster. In the short term, it may be necessary, but it’s not a long-term solution to the deepening problem, which is only exacerbated by population growth, climate change, and economic tremors caused by the challenge of peak oil.

It’s worth rewinding a few weeks in the news, to the attempted passage of the US Farm Bill.The Economist weighed in on the absurdity of some of the Farm Bill’s most notorious features (not only continuing a lavish subsidy program, but tying future subsidy levels to today’s record commodity prices), and others, like The Center for Ecoliteracy, have worked to draw the connection between the bill, farming, health, and the impact on our local food systems. What’s important to note here though, is that the farm bill is at the root of the hunger crisis now facing farmers around the world. In the US especially, but also in Europe, farm subsidies support the business of farming locally, but prop up an unsustainable commodity production, dramatically distort prices, and create a surplus of really cheap food. This food then travels the world, and finds its way untaxed into local markets, where it arrives at low prices, often undercutting the ability of local farmers to compete and make a profit. This is an important piece of the puzzle: the reduction of trade barriers in the third world and increased subsidies in the first world flood local markets and combine to dramatically alter the economy of farming and the social web of food production.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the paradigm itself is unsustainable. It’s not going to work to overproduce food, and ship it from one side of the world to the other. For a while, that seemed logical, at least on some economic grounds. But now, the cost of that model has increased to the point where it’s clearly broken. Farmers are stuck in the midst of a situation that they did not create, and struggling to get by. It’s past time to envision and work towards a different paradigm, one that prioritizes the needs of farmers and their families, and understands that this is the only basis from which to build a strong and sustainable global economy. Henry Saragih, International Coordinator for Via Campesina, has written a subtle but provocative letter that hints at what this new direction might look like.

In the meantime, the farmers of Peace Kawomera are working to build a stable market for their coffee, which helps to bring some economic security to their families. The Cooperative is working on helping the farmers develop their coffee production, and balance cash-cropping with food production. It’s going to be a long journey together, but our hope is that by doing our part we can work to establish a model that works for farmers and their families—both because coffee, which is and should be a viable cash crop is now profitable, and because farmers can use these earnings and the cooperative’s support to return to food production, and achieve a healthy balance in their farming between feeding their families and earning money to pay for the other necessities of life.

From the UN summit in Rome to the floor of the US congress, and all the way to the slopes of Mt. Elgon in Uganda, the challenge of our time is weaving together a globalized economy that works for everyone, now, and in the future. Should we be surprised to learn that it’s all connected, that just like an ecosystem, one change creates another, and a challenge one place is simultaneously a challenge somewhere else?

new friends and new news

From time to time (and increasingly, with less time between—a good thing!) like-minded blogs, bloggers, and organizations share our story with their audience. It’s certainly one of the wonders of our modern world: that we can reach so many with the stories of our time. I thought I’d share a couple of recent posts with you, in case you’re interested in reading what others are saying about our work—maybe you’ll discover a new favorite blog or another inspiring story in the process!

From Tzaadi.com, an interesting perspective on Mirembe Kawomera and the larger struggles facing Africa, and Africans.

A snippet: “We should be looking to stories of self-reliance and ingenuity that show how Africans themselves are healing their continent from the inside out. Read more.

From Your Daily Thread, an LA-based blog about all things fair trade, hip, and sustainable.

A snippet: “Thanksgiving brings to mind turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce – and coffee? Sure, Thanksgiving is still far away – and maybe coffee isn’t a traditional Thanksgiving food – but we are definitely ready to give thanks for California-based Thanksgiving Coffee. Read more.

From Faith House, an innovative approach to building interfaith bridges and relationships, based in Manhattan.

A snippet: “We invite you to join efforts like this and harness the buying power of your community for peace and justice, and to heal the broken relationships of our world.” Read more.

Yours in Peace,

Ben

where have we been?

That’s a good question. It’s been almost two weeks since my last post, and I bet some of you have been wondering: where have you been?

Well, the answer is a long one. And there’s hardly been a break in our schedule to sleep, let alone drop a note on our blog. Why have we been so busy? Well…

We’ve been meeting with dozens of our supporters—churches, synagogues, and mosques—all across the country.

We’ve been packing and unpacking far too many suitcases, in cars far too small for all of our baggage, let alone all of us and all of our baggage.

We’ve been moving from city to city, town to town, sharing our story of peace, juggling radio interviews, reporters requests for photo shoots, and trying to make at least a little bit of time at each stop to see the sights. So far, Sam likes Chicago most. Margaret is taken with New York. Sinina is partial to San Francisco, but I think she likes the sunshine most, so LA may be the ultimate winner. As for JJ, as those of you who know the man, he’s pretty much happy everywhere, and would take the world for his home if he could be everywhere at once.

We’ve been welcomed in the most amazing ways by communities from Baltimore to Washington to Chicago, and now in California, Sacramento and San Francisco. We’ve been thrilled at each stop.

The Bolton Street Synagogue in Baltimore, packed to overflowing with the city’s Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities.

A fantastic series of events in Chicago, which showed that there is truly an interfaith movement coming together because of this project—standing ovations from hundreds of young Muslims at the Islamic Foundation School, an interfaith welcome organized by the Chicago Fair Trade Coalition, a visit with our dear friends at the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation of Evanston, and an exciting first meeting with St. Sabina’s Catholic Church on Chicago’s southside.

Listen to an interview on Worldview, from WBEZ Chicago.

(Special thanks to Nancy Jones of the Chicago Fair Trade Coalition, and Elaine Waxman of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation of Evanston for organizing our time in Chi-town.)

Then back home, a beautiful gathering in Santa Rosa, California, on our way to Mendocino, Thanksgiving’s hometown, where we were welcomed by a sold out benefit dinner to raise money for the cooperative’s efforts to combat malaria.

All in all, it’s been quite a whirlwind. A combination of exhausting and exhilarating, non-stop, and unstoppable.

I find myself thinking a lot these days about what it means to be traveling in the service of peace, to be sharing this story of hope at a time when we commemorate the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq. So many lives have been lost, so much hatred has been stoked and sustained. And yet, in these same five years, in this community in Uganda, people have been working together for peace. And in this country, in last 4 years, we have been working to bring this story of peace into people’s lives, and these people have been working to make sure that the farmer’s efforts succeed. Two very different stories, the same world. Two different examples of our human capacities. I hope that each of you reading this blog has had the chance to meet these amazing farmers, and I’m thankful to all of you who’ve joined us to affirm that we can in fact work for a more peaceful world. We’ll continue in our work, and we hope you will too. One day, as JJ’s been saying, maybe we’ll learn to stop fighting each other, and work to create the heaven of our dreams right here on this earth.

On our one day off, I took JJ surfing. It was amazing, and a joy for me to share this pursuit which I love so much with my dear friend. I think JJ caught the bug, and as we walked back along the beach with our boards under our arms, JJ told me, At first, I was afraid of the waves, and felt like they were trying to attack me, to hurt me. Then I saw you out there, playing, having fun, and I realized the waves were just being waves. So I tried not to fight them, but to accept them as they came towards me. I relaxed, and pretty soon, I felt like they were there to offer me their beauty and their energy.

And of course, I can’t help but comment that Senator Obama’s speech earlier this week should help us imagine a deeper vision of who “we” are, both as Americans, and as citizens of this world.

So, where have we been? Many places. I think the question really is, where are we going?

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Sam, Sinina, JJ, and Margaret on the mall in Washington, D.C.

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Kind of like Where’s Waldo, only with more luggage: can you find JJ in this picture?

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Our friends from the Islamic Foundation School rep the coffee in Chicago.

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St. Sabina’s social justice club with the farmers.

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JJ and Sam on the Mendocino Coast, with the Pacific Ocean.

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The crew and Holly with one of Northern California’s majestic redwood trees.
With our friends at the San Francisco Interfaith Council.
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Official Press Release from Tufts University

“Delicious Peace” wins the Dr. Jean Mayer Award!

Official Press Release from Tufts University
Dr. Jean Mayer Award Press Release

Tufts Institute for Global Leadership is proud to announce the presentation of the Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citzenship Award to the Peace Kawomera Fair Trade Coffee Cooperative in Mbale, Uganda together with its partners Thanksgiving Coffee Company of Fort Bragg, California and the organization Kulanu (All of Us), a grassroots, US volunteer not-for-profit Jewish organization working with communities around the world.

Dr. Jean Mayer, former president of Tufts University, was a world-renowned nutritionist and scholar who advised three U.S. Presidents (Nixon, Ford, Carter) on issues of hunger and nutrition. This award was established “…To honor Jean Mayer, by challenging and inspiring our students and the University community, by bringing to Tufts distinguished scholars and practitioners whose moral courage, personal integrity, and passion for scholarship resonated his dictum that “Scholarship, research and teaching must be dedicated to solving the most pressing problems facing the world.” Sherman Teichman, the Director of the Institute wrote, “On behalf of the Institute, its 2008 EPIIC (Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship) program on”Global Poverty and Inequality,” Tufts University, and the Dr. Jean Mayer family, I want to convey our deep satisfaction at being able to acknowledge and assist your wonderful innovative and powerful efforts on behalf of alleviating poverty, creating accountable and sustainable trade practices, encouraging community peace and promoting interfaith harmony.

The Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award was designed to acknowledge exactly such remarkable efforts. And in the process, we wish to acknowledge the Executive Director of Tufts Hillel, Rabbi Jeffrey Summit, who has done superb work to tell the story of this community and support university education for its students.” He continued, “It is an honor to be able to have you all involved in our programs and we look forward to creating a solid partnership with the Institute and EMPOWER into the future as we mentor and encourage Tufts students to engage in the world of accountable, sustainable social entrepreneurship.”

Past recipients of the Dr. Jean Mayer Award include Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Dr. Paul Farmer, author Samantha Power and economist John Kenneth Galbraith.

The award ceremony and presentation will take place at Tufts University on Tuesday, March 4, 2008 at 8:00 PM at Cabot Auditorium. A delegation from the Peace Kawomera Cooperative including representatives from the Muslim, Jewish, Anglican and Catholic community, as well as Ben Corey-Moran and Holly Moskowitz of the Thanksgiving Coffee Company and Laura Wetzler of Kulanu will be present to speak about the work of the cooperative and to receive the award. The event will be cosponsored with Tufts Hillel which will join in hosting a dinner for the award recipients in conjunction with their Merrin Distinguished Lecture Series “Moral Voices” program.

——————————————————————————————-
JJ Keki shares his feelings upon hearing this good news:

We PKC (peace kawomera cooperative) feel so grateful for having been chosen among
people who are using peaceful weapons to bring peace
onto this planet.

We never new that our call of preaching peace would
reach to such an International institute and be
awarded such a prestigious gift.

Although my dream is to see no wars any where, any
more; I feel very happy that I am not alone but I have
partners who are on my side. Some of the partners who
decided to work for peace Are the Thanks Giving
Coffee Company, the United Religious Initiative and
now the Tufts University.

We want to assure this world that we soon to win the
war peacefully.

Yours J J for PKC

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