Clean Cookstoves in Uganda

By Paul Katzeff, CEO + Co-Founder, Thanksgiving Coffee Company

In 2012 Thanksgiving Coffee Company, in collaboration with the Mirembe Kawomera Board and members, began a Climate change mitigation initiative in the foothills of Mt. Elgon, with the cooperative. The first phase was tree planting, and the project had these basic principles at its core:

  • The trees would provide shade to keep the ground cool and moist
  • The trees would enhance the habitat for indigenous birds and other wildlife
  • Deep root systems of trees holds the moisture in the soil and brings nutrients from deep in the ground to the surface via leaf litter produced by the trees. This makes the soil more fertile.
  • The trees soften the impact of rainstorms and mitigate against runoff that carries away topsoil
  • Shade improves the health of coffee trees as well as the flavor profile.
  • Trees produce wood for cooking and reduce the need for long distance hauling of wood
  • Trees bring up the water table and enable the ground to hold more water
JB Birenge, Climate Change Mitigation project leader in 2012 (photo credit: Ben Corey Moran)

JB Birenge, Climate Change Mitigation project manager in 2012 (photo credit: Ben Corey Moran)

There remained a problem.

The coop members were relying on the climate change mitigation tree planting as a source of firewood for their open fire cooking. Open fires are a simple but extremely wasteful way to build a cook fire, so the coop members decided that if they had more efficient ways to cook, they would lower their use of firewood. This plan was the best way to allow the trees to grow to maturity before being sustainably pruned for firewood, and thus was born “The Clean Cookstove Project.”
Rock fire rings are traditionally used to cook food

Rock fire rings are traditionally used to cook food

In partnership with Carrotmob, Thanksgiving Coffee Company raised $4,600 in a crowd-funding campaign. The funds were allocated for the Clean Cookstove project. The General Manager of the cooperative designed the project,  researched the methodology, hired local craftsmen and women, gathered materials, and began building the stoves in April of this year. In this first phase of the project, 46 families will receive the stoves. Families with children, older people and single parent families were chosen by the coop as are recipients of the first 46 stoves. The plan is to expand the program so all 300 coop member families eventually have one built for them in their homes.

The benefits of clean cookstoves are many.

Obviously, better respiratory health and easier fuel collecting because these stoves use 1/10 the fuel to produce a cooked meal. That means more time to attend school, make music, do homework or whatever leisure time is used for in a small village at the base of a mountain, where there is no cafe to hang out, no community center, and where electricity is limited to a few outlets per square mile. We are proud to be associated with this project – happier, healthy coffee farmers means a better world, and better coffee.

Aisa Kainza with her Clean Cookstove

Aisa Kainza with her Clean Cookstove

I am currently in Uganda, on a trip that was planned back in February when I was last in Africa.

Much has happened since, including a clear Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that outlines our and the Cooperatives responsibilities and expectations from the relationship we have created. The goal of this trip is mostly oversight. We are advancing funds to the Cooperative to double its washing station capacity. This will require a solar drying system of greatly increased capacity, and a financial system that is going to handle twice the amount of money, double the volume of coffee, and provide more transparency. We are building capacity and the requirement for a higher level of professional financial management will be required as soon as this next crop is ready in September. That is in about 60 days!

There is lots to do – and we want to be a part of the doing.

To be continued…
-Paul

Save Alexa’s Farm – Support Project La Roya

Save-Alexas-farm-header

In February of 2013, Thanksgiving Coffee staff visited the farm of Alexa Marín Colindres, a member of the PRODECOOP Cooperative in Nicaragua. We toured her farm, listened to her heartbreaking story, and wondered how we could help. Later that day, we did a blind cupping of 20 of the cooperative’s coffees, and asked that her coffee be included.

We sipped and slurped for two hours to get through them all, scoring each coffee on Fragrance, Aroma, Body, Acidity, Flavor Notes and Balance. One coffee was, hands down, the best on the table – and it turned out to be Alexa’s. We bought 10 sacks (all that was available), and are proud to offer you this special coffee, and invite you to help.

Alexa and her sonsMeet Alexa. She lives with her two teenage sons in the mountains of Northern Nicaragua, where they focus on growing the best coffee possible. She has been a coffee farmer for many years and has worked with the cooperative PRODECOOP since 1992.

In 2013, Alexa noticed that the leaves on her coffee trees were affected by La Roya, a fungal disease which attacks the leaves and prevents them from converting sunlight into energy. The coffee cherries turn brown and fall off before ripening, and the tree eventually dies.

Roya affecting coffee trees in NicaraguaLa Roya is thought by many in the coffee industry to be one of the many challenges brought on by Climate Change. This disease is sweeping across coffee country, devastating the coffee trees of many small, family farmers – and threatening their way of life.

For some, this will mean starting over – even on a new piece of unaffected land. For others, it may mean removing or pruning affected trees and replanting where necessary.

Visit Easy Fundraising Ideas

Want to Help? Support Project: La Roya

Alexa’s coffee is fabulous and we want her coffee farm to thrive – so we decided to rally our customers to support her and other farmers battling La Roya. In March 2014, we launched Project: La Roya with our partners at The Social Business Network (SBN) in Nicaragua.

The project will raise $10,000 to help the farmers of PRODECOOP stop the spread of this disease and re-plant 5,000 coffee trees that have been affected. $2 from every bag of Finca de Alexa coffee sold will be invested in Project: La Roya.

Buy Alexa's Coffee

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La Roya: rust that kills coffee trees

by Paul Katzeff | CEO, Thanksgiving Coffee

Roya affecting coffee trees in Nicaragua

“Rust” is a word with an ominous sound. It ruins older cars, renders tools useless, and is a major reason for the use of paint to preserve everything made from iron. In Central America there are two kinds of rust. The kind that corrodes iron and the kind that kills coffee trees. The latter rust, called “La Roya” is a Fungus that is pernicious. It lives on the leaves, sucking the life out of them. They fall off and do not return. Coffee cherries never ripen, and the tree eventually dies. This is not a good thing for a coffee farmer whose survival depends on coffee.

Unripened coffee cherries on a rust-affected tree.La Roya is worse than a 60 cent per pound market price, which is a monumental crisis, but there is always another season, and hope for higher prices for the farmer. La Roya is no crop, then three to five years of rehabilitation of the coffee farm. In other words, it is the end of family life on the farm. It is the end of a way of life, of culture, of living on the land. It means hunger, it means migration to the cities, it means over crowding and the deterioration of family life as country people are forced to work in urban factories making clothing for two dollars a day.

La Roya is here and unless a major battle is waged to beat it back, Central American coffee will be a thing of the past, and coffee prices will rise as the supply of quality coffee is diminished.  This is not Chicken Little talking here. This is absolutely a disaster about to happen – this year.

Alexa and her sonsThis February, I was in the Nuevo Segovia Region of Nicaragua on a coffee buying trip. I visited the farm of a member of the PRODECOOP Cooperative. Alexa and her two teenage sons live two kilometers from the Honduras boarder. Many of their coffee trees are affected by La Roya, and are starting to lose their leaves. They got a crop this year, but next year they expect to get 50% less. I have no idea how they will be able to continue making a living. They produced 10 sacks (1500 lbs) this year, for which we paid $ 2.75 per pound. That was double the world price and the highest we could afford to pay.

Alexa views the damage to her farmAlexa’s coffee is fabulous and we want her coffee farm to thrive. We want her to be able to refresh her trees and beat the Rust. Next year, she will need to get $ 5.50/lb. to survive on her farm. Will you support our effort by paying $2.75 more per pound for her coffee next year? Would you pay more than $15.00 for a bag of her coffee?

Well, first you have to taste it. We will present her coffee to our public in July when it arrives. It is going to cost her about $8,000 to rehabilitate her farm. We are going to try to raise that money between now and December.

That’s the way Direct Trade works – we are all in this coffee thing together.

Paul Katzeff, CEO
Thanksgiving Coffee Company

Returning to Uganda

A guest post by Ellen Friedland, producer of the documentary film
Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean

delicious peace, uganda, fair trade coffee, mirembe kawomera
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.

mirembe kawomera, delicious peace, thanksgiving coffee company

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:

Mirembe Kawomera, Uganda - Dark RoastMirembe Kawomera, Uganda - Light RoastMirembe Kawomera, Uganda - Decaf

Thanks for your support, Carrotmobbers!


Last month, we partnered with Carrotmob to raise support for a new sustainability project: shipping coffee on sailing ships from Nicaragua and Peru into Fort Bragg’s Noyo Harbor.

Shipping coffee – to be continued…


We had an ambitious goal: sell $150,000 worth of coffee in just 20 days. While we didn’t make it to our goal, we have been overwhelmed with your support for shipping coffee by wind.
With your support, we raised over $31,000 through our partnership with Carrotmob – about 20% of our goal. Even though this first attempt didn’t produce enough funding to further our feasibility study to sail coffee – we’re committed to moving forward with the idea.

With Noyo Harbor right in our backyard, shipping coffee and other goods is a tremendous economic opportunity for our community in Fort Bragg, California that we’d like to explore further.This was our first attempt to break the ice around this idea, and in the months ahead, we’ll be determining the next steps to further this project.

What about the money raised?

Thanksgiving’s Ben Corey-Moran meets with Peace Kawomera’s Board of Directors. Photo: jemglo.org, 2008

 

Per our agreement with Carrotmob, we’ll be sending 15% of the funds raised in the buycott (about $4,095) to our associated non-profit organization, The Resilience Fund, which will use the money for a project in Mbale, Uganda.

That’s where the Peace Kawomera Cooperative is, which has been a partner of Thanksgiving Coffee since 2004. It’s a co-op of Jewish, Christian and Muslim coffee farmers who came together to build peace through economic development.

You might recognize the name from our online store, where we offer as light roastdark roast and decaf coffees from this cooperative.

In the Peace Kawomera coop, coffee farmers and their families cook with wood, in stoves or over open fires, often inside their living areas. Due to the lack of clean, efficient wood stoves, this puts strain on local forest resources and often results in poor indoor air quality.

Nathan Watandena, showing land that was once densely forested. Photo: Ben Corey-Moran, 2008.

The cooperative has an existing climate change adaption project funded by a Dutch NGO, Progreso, that is addressing this challenge by bringing farmers together to plant trees and re-forest the area.

This effort is improving the sustainability of their coffee crops and ensuring the availability of resources vital to the community. We’re committed to supporting this important work – and the Carrotmob funds will be put to work immediately for a new project that builds on this work.

With the approximately $4,600 raised in the Carrotmob buycott, The Resilience Fund will purchase clean, efficient cookstoves for about 70 families that are a part of the cooperative. This will reduce their dependency on local forest resources and improve indoor air quality. The Resilience Fund will continue to raise funds to support this project.

While we didn’t meet our goal of $150k, our experience partnering with Carrotmob, its supporters and our customers has been exciting. The Carrotmob has huge potential to create lasting change, and in fact, already has. Thank you so much for your support!

Join us in San Francisco on Oct. 2 for Climate Change, Coffee + Cheese

Taste & Place

How the climate crisis is changing the flavor of the foods we love.

Join us at a special event about climate change, coffee & cheese in San Francisco. In addition to learning about the effects of climate change, you’ll taste a selection of our seasonally fresh coffees from Nicaragua paired with cheese selections from Mission Cheese. Our President & Director of Coffee, Ben Corey-Moran will be presenting!

Tuesday October 2, 2012. 6-8pm – buy tickets ($12)
18 Reasons (map)
3674 18th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

More about the event:
Climate change is altering the landscape, ecology & weather of food producing regions around the world. It’s also changing the flavor of many of the foods we love. The taste of every craft food is created by a subtle interaction between land, climate, and culture. Climate, in particular, creates a delicately calibrated set of natural factors conducive to production of specific flavors.

This class will begin with an introduction by Calla Rose Ostrander, Climate Change Projects Manager for the City & County of SF, and will feature lectures by our Director of Coffee, Ben Corey-Moran and Mission Cheese’s Sarah Dvorak on the role of climate in coffee and cheese production, as well as a discussion of the social, economic and ecological implications of changing climate to these products and their producers.

buy tickets ($12)

Coffee by wind – a campaign with Carrotmob

This month, we partnered with Carrotmob to raise support for a new sustainability project: shipping coffee on sailing ships from Nicaragua and Peru into Fort Bragg’s Noyo Harbor!

Carrotmob is a San Francisco-based organization dedicated to advancing sustainable business practices through positive incentives. This is Carrotmob’s first large-scale campaign – and we’re proud to partner with them to advance this project. Here’s how it works:

“In a Carrotmob campaign, a group of people offers to spend their money to support a business, and in return the business agrees to take an action that the people care about. We are called Carrotmob because we use the “carrot” instead of the stick.” – from the Carrotmob website

Since virtually all coffee is grown within 1,000 miles from the equator, green coffee is currently shipped from its origin on large container ships, which burn bunker fuel, a low-grade diesel that emits vast amounts of smog-forming pollution and carbon dioxide. We receive these shipments from Oakland, California and drive our beans to Fort Bragg to roast and bag for our customers. We’re interested in being the first company in modern times to ship coffee by wind – lowering our carbon footprint and setting an example for the coffee industry.

Will you join in this effort? Visit carrotmob.org/thanksgiving

If the Carrotmob campaign generates $150,000 in coffee sales during its 20-day run, we will have enough resources to begin to pursue our dream of shipping coffee by wind. Our first step will be to conduct a feasibility study to assess the costs, efficiency and risks involved in transporting our coffee beans on sailing ships – it has to make economic and environmental sense if we choose to move forward with shipping coffee on sailing ships. If it does, we’ll plan our maiden voyage.

Our maiden voyage would bring a load of green coffee from Nicaragua straight into Fort Bragg’s Noyo Harbor, a 6 week roundtrip.

If the maiden voyage proved to be successful, we’d also ship coffee from Peru, an 8 week roundtrip, carrying some if not all of our annual purchases from these origins.

If the campaign doesn’t reach the $150,000 goal, the funds raised for this effort will be directed toward The Resilience Fund – our nonprofit social venture that funds sustainability projects in coffee-growing regions.

We strive to do our best for people and the planet while sourcing and roasting our coffee – through our direct trade relationships, investments in infrastructure and training, our fair trade and organic certified coffees, and by creating long-lasting relationships with the people, communities and ecosystems that are touched by our coffee business.

We’re constantly searching for the cleanest, most efficient distribution system to source our beans and get roasted coffee to our customers. This partnership with Carrotmob is the latest in this effort.

For more information or to support the campaign, visit carrotmob.org/thanksgiving

Why Thomas Keller Is Wrong About Chefs’ Social Responsibility

Why Thomas Keller Is Wrong About Chefs’ Social Responsibility

Whether He Likes It or Not, Global Warming Is Changing the Taste of Food

(Cross-posted on Earth Island Journal)

By Ben Corey-Moran

In its May 15 “Dining & Wine” section, The New York Times broke the seal on a simmering controversy in the world of fine dining: What responsibility, if any, do chefs have to promote sustainable food systems? In a discussion with celebrated restaurateurs Thomas Keller (of California’s French Laundry and the New York restaurant Per Se) and Luis Aduriz (of Spain’s famed Mugaritz), reporter Julia Moskin asked how these top chefs view their obligations to protecting the environment. The article headline said it all: “For Them, a Great Meal Tops Good Intentions.” As it turns out, these guys would rather keep it simple and not worry about the complicated stuff: where food comes from, what makes great food great, and the reality that we are facing the loss not only of great food, but the culture, ecology, and social fabric that creates it.

“With the relatively small number of people I feed, is it really my responsibility to worry about carbon footprint?” Mr. Keller said. “The world’s governments should be worrying about carbon footprint.”

 

Both Keller and Aduriz view haute cuisine as a seamless fusion of pleasure and art. They are united in the belief that their responsibility as chefs is primarily to create breathtakingly delicious and beautiful food — not, as some of their colleagues (like, most prominently, NYT food writer Mark Bittman) think, to provide a livelihood for farmers who practice more sustainable practices, to preserve traditional culinary arts, or to help check global climate change by reducing food miles. The idea of promoting more environmentally sound agriculture is the driving force behind the “farm-to-table” philosophy that many high-end restaurants have adopted. But it seems that such ideals are an afterthought at the most rarefied levels of cuisine.

 

Over at Grist, Twilight Greenway offers a muscular critique of why Keller’s and Aduriz’s cavalier attitude is short-sighted. “If we lived in the 19th century … then you could just focus on making your brilliant food (it would probably be served to royalty) and someone else would do the driving, someone else the laundry, and so forth.” But in the era of climate change and global resource depletion, the it’s-not-my-problem mindset is “not just irresponsible — [it is] destructive.”

 

Even if Keller and Aduriz feel entitled to dismiss the moral responsibility to care about the farmer behind the ingredients that sustain their art, there is one simple reason why they should care about the environment in the twenty-first century: global warming is changing the way food tastes.

Whether it’s the distinctive briny tang of sourdough bread in San Francisco, the subtle florality of a raw cheese, or the complexity of a great coffee, climate creates flavor. And when the climate changes, so will the tastes we have come to expect — and not for the better.

Take coffee, the crop that’s been the source of my livelihood as the Director of Coffee at Thanksgiving Coffee Company for nearly 10 years. As temperatures warm, coffee fruit ripens more quickly, producing a less complex flavor. The articulation of flavors becomes muddled, and the essential balance between juicy citric acidity, body, and flavor loses dimension. After harvesting, and during processing, the yeast that predominate in a particular growing region (much like the yeast that gives San Francisco sourdough its distinctive flavor) interact with the fruit’s sugar, and transform flavor in the same way that yeast develop the flavors of great bread, cheese, wine, and beer. These yeasts, dominant in particular regions because of their suitability to that climate, are out-competed by rival strains more adapted to the new norms of humidity and temperature. As temperatures warm and climate shifts, the delicate choreography of factors that combine to produce great coffee changes. We are losing the distinctive flavors that we associate with the micro-origins and appellations that coffee lovers cherish. A look at the menu of Keller’s Per Se (warning: sticker shock may occur) reveals a long list of ingredients — cacao, cheese, wine, bread, fruit, vegetables, and, well, pretty much everything — whose flavor, like coffee, is changing because of our changing climate.

As Neelima Mahajan described in the Spring 2012 edition of Earth Island Journal, for coffee farmers in Uganda climate change isn’t some kind of academic concern. It’s happening now, and it’s threatening coffee crops, farmers’ livelihoods, and the area’s ecology. I’d like to invite Keller and Aduriz to visit the farmers of Peace Kawomera, a Ugandan Cooperative I work with on the Mount Elgon region featured in Mahajan’s article. There they would see coffee in the flesh and the efforts, led by the 560 family farmers of Peace Kawomera and supported by Thanksgiving Coffee Company and The Resilience Fund (a project of Earth Island Institute), to develop front-line buffers against the dislocations of climate change. Through simple initiatives such as tree-planting and watershed restoration we are boosting farmers’ resilience to shifting weather.

For the farmers of Peace Kawomera, and others like them, the almost-clinical phrase climate change doesn’t begin to describe the brutal reality they are facing. My friend  and Peace Kawomera founder JJ Keki speaks of the climate crisis as a threat to his whole way of life. Perhaps a visit to Keki’s farm would awaken Keller and Aduriz to the responsibilities they possess as persons of influence.

As leaders of the culinary world, these chefs need to remember that their skill in the kitchen depends on their relationships with farmers, ranchers, fisherpeople, and all other agricultural producers. Honoring those relationships is not only key to a sustainable food system, but in fact is the only path to the subtle gifts of flavor that make a great meal.

Ben Corey-Moran is the President of Thanksgiving Coffee and serves on the Advisory Council of The Resilience Fund, an Earth Island Institute-sponsored project that helps coffee farmers adapt to global climate change. Lean more about The Resilience Fund at www.theresiliencefund.org.

 


 

New Project Supports Climate Change Adaptation in Uganda

We 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, the 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

Video Feature: 2012 Sustainability Award

We’re honored that our work in Rwanda is being recognized by the Specialty Coffee Association of America with the 2012 Sustainability Award. We’re also excited about the power of this story, and creating projects like it with every single farm and cooperative we call a partner. The future of specialty coffee hangs in the balance; climate change poses very real and serious threats. We also have the ability, through our relationship-based trading model, to invest, collaborate, support, and ultimately, protect the future of coffee for us and for the farmers who grow it.

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