Farmers & Cooperatives
Delicious Peace Coffee
by Paul Katzeff
Delicious Peace Coffee is produced in Uganda by 250 coffee farmers of Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths who work together in their newly reformed cooperative after the last one they belonged to was corrupted by their founder who took all the coops property and a portion of their financial resources. In 2016, after a decade of belonging to the original cooperative, Mirembe Kawomera, they parted ways from the original and perhaps the only Interfaith Cooperative in the world that was fully composed of Jews, Christians and Muslims. We at Thanksgiving Coffee spent from 2006 to 2016 happily buying their coffee and telling their Interfaith story. The story of how it all ended can be found in this 10 part series “A Trip to Africa”. What follows is their new story.
Interfaith work was not this cooperatives mission. But it became a necessary aspect of their economic survival as coffee farmers. Individually their farms were too small to produce export quantities where the value of their labor would be appreciated and the price level per pound would be related to the unique flavor of their coffee beans. Putting differences aside, they formed a new cooperative to continue their work together. They renamed the cooperative The Namanyonyi Community of Shalom Coffee Cooperative (NCSCC).
Their story of Interfaith cooperation is worth telling here in the United States. We need to fight the fear of diversity with love, kindness, and inspirational models like this one. If poor Coffee farmers in Uganda can bring together 250 farm families for economic benefit for all, that is an accomplishment worth telling. If they can do it, we can too!
On my periodic visits to Uganda. I notice an unexpected consequence of our support and of their integration. There is a kind of Peace in their community, a shift from the tentativeness and mistrust between people practicing different religions in the same small community. Having to work together brought a familiarity that was comforting to most and as a consequence, enjoyment in finding new friends, a diminishing of the fear of being different and the growing and newfound empathy for their Abrahamic Brothers and Sisters as similarity replaced difference and myths became exposed as ignorance. Interfaith work creates Peace and with Peace in a community, Social, Economic and Environmental Justice can prevail.
As noted, this group of farmers has a history. First founded in 2004 The Mirembe Kawomera Cooperative was honored by Tufts University with their most prestigious honor, the Jean Mayer Award for Interfaith work in 2008 (I have a video of Thanksgiving Coffee on stage as the Co-op receive the award, but it is still on tape). We had been their only buyer but we were selling their coffee to Mosques, Churches, Synagogues and Interfaith Councils with great success. By 2018 we were selling 30,000 pounds yearly and paying 4 times the local price they would have received from the local buyers in Uganda.
They had become a Fair Trade Certified Cooperative and had converted to 100% organic cultivation. The flavor was steadily improving and we felt that their 82 had the potential to become an 88. We were moving forward and the coffee was now beginning to be a part of the story as its flavor began to shine. But when the Cooperative members reorganized without their corrupt founder, they lost their hard-earned Certifications of Fair Trade and Organic. They are now in the process of becoming re-certified. Their cultivation practices remain the same.
In 2017 Thanksgiving Coffee contracted with The Communities of Shalom International Resource Center at Drew University for a year of intensive training for their new Board of Directors. It cost our company $6,000 but their story still needed to be told and with the internet now in full force, we knew we had the tools to bring the story to a much wider audience than before.
In October 2019 the Namanyonyi coffee farmers harvested their first crop as the new cooperative with its now trained Board of Directors in full charge. I had not yet tasted their 2019 crop for quality but I had a strong suspicion that it would be as good or slightly better than the 82 that was the score we gave our 2016 purchase. I didn’t think it was much of a risk because it was for them a second chance at creating a lasting relationship with a roaster who would tell their story and add value to their crop via the Interfaith model they had successfully accomplished together.
Photo: Co-op president proudly showing his Delicious Peace Coffee Package to the Chef at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kampala.
They were by now quite proud of who they were and how peaceful their small village was. When the coffee arrived at our Roastery in California we gathered in our tasting room and opened the first sack to view their raw, unroasted green beans. They were fresh smelling and blue-green in color. Their aromatics foretold a taste we were all anxious to experience. Jacob roasted a small sample which the next day, after the beans had rested a bit, we gathered around the cupping table to taste what was the first cup of the 360,000 cups that the 15,000 pounds would produce when it was brewed in peoples homes.
The flavors were every bit a reflection of the beautiful green-blue raw beans we inspected and roasted the day before. Lots of sweetness, fruity notes of mission figs, balanced with a nice soft lemony acidity, and a long wet finish. Lovely! We gave it an 86. It was their best score after almost fifteen years of working as a harmonious group of coffee farmers.
The 250 families that produce this coffee have a drinking water problem. Water systems are rare and most water for drinking and cooking is collected from “bore holes” loaded with dangerous bacteria. So boiling is the most common way to kill the bacteria. Even with this purifying procedure water-born diseases like Typhoid, Cholera, and diarrhea kills 50% of all children under 5 years old. Such death rates cause a great deal of emotional pain for the families and their community. We needed to do something about this otherwise the joy of cooperative success would be muted by poor health and death hanging over every one of the 250 families in the Cooperative.
Coincidentally or so it seemed, I received a communication from a woman who had been a Peace Corps Volunteer recently in Uganda. Kathy is a Civil Engineer. She told me of her work providing Clay Water Filters for homes in Uganda. She created a business in Kampala which manufactured water filters made out of local red clay and sawdust. After firing, the filters could remove, by simple gravity, 99.9% of all harmful bacteria making the water safe to drink. Their cost is $24.00 for a 20-liter system.
Calculating a $1.00 rebate to the coop for every pound Thanksgiving sells, we could raise enough money for 600 family water filters. Although there are only 250 families in the cooperative now, the prospect of receiving the filter free from the coop would help them strengthen their ties to the community they all live in and perhaps become well respected for their kindness and concern.
This water filter has multifaceted benefits;
• No wood needs be gathered from the forest to boil water , saving time and kitchen smoke pollution.
• Forests are not reduced to dry meadows
• Woman and girls spend less time hunting for, gathering, carrying, and transporting wood back to their homes
• Health improves, and the pain and fear of illness and loss of life diminishes
• Climate change is mitigated by preserving carbon sequestering trees.
• Money is not wasted on unnecessary purchases of charcoal, wood , medicines, and burials.
This is a work that is worthy. Everyone wins with this wonderful coffee. So here is your call to action. Take a risk on buying the first two packages. One roasted to a Medium Roast and a second to a darker Vienna Roast. A combo you can drink individually or blend together as you use them. Regardless of how you drink them, I guarantee you will find their flavor just wonderfully satisfying.
OFFICE: (707) 964-0118
MAIL ORDER: (800) 648-6491
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PO BOX 1918
Fort Bragg, CA 95437