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:

An American Family Grows Coffee

mahina-mele-familyWe arrived on the Big Island In June 2005 eager to see the coffee farm we purchased, sight unseen.

Our first visit to our new home was stunning. While we had an idea of what we might find, we were thrilled to see the lush overgrown coffee trees and a macadamia nut orchard. Our passion soon became cleaning the land. Using only organic practices, solar energy, and water catchment our farm soon became an oasis for birds, camelions, and all plant life.

The coffee appreciated the attention and soon ripened with vibrant with red plump cherries. The rich volcanic soils of Hawaii and tropical climate allowed the coffee to thrive.”

 

— Kollette and Jason Stith, Mahina Mele Farm

100% Kona Coffee

Kona Coffee BlossomsAuthentic Kona coffee, by Hawaiian law, requires the label “100% Kona Coffee” be prominently displayed on the package. Hawaiian law also states that Kona blends state the percentage of Kona beans on the label (there is no matching federal law.)  Some retailers use terms such as “Kona Blend”, “Kona Roast”, or “Kona Style”. There must be a minimum of 10% Kona beans in a Kona blend, but the remaining coffee beans are not required to be identified, are usually are not.
Mahina Mele Farm is a member of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association (KFCA, visit them at www.konacoffeefarmers.org), which seeks to protect the Kona Coffee Heritage. The family’s Kona Rose coffee is made from 100% Kona coffee beans, which have been certified organic, so you know exactly what’s in your cup. Enjoy your coffee, and thank you for supporting Mahina Mele Farm!

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