Rebuilding Rwanda … with Specialty Coffee
Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Thanksgiving Coffee collaborate
to help people, gorillas
San Francisco, Calif. Ten years after the Rwandan genocide, a small Northern California coffee roaster may have a solution for rebuilding the Rwandan economy and protecting the endangered mountain gorillas made famous by the movie Gorillas in the Mist.
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In an exclusive licensing agreement with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI), Thanksgiving Coffee Company will donate up to 20% of the retail sale price from its new Fair Trade Certified Gorilla Fund Coffee to the DFGFI. The money will support programs that assist communities near mountain gorilla habitat by providing healthcare, technical training, micro-credit and further enhance mountain gorilla protection.
Through helping the people who live near the gorillas, we are also able to improve the stability and environment for the endangered gorilla populations, says Clare Richardson, president and CEO of the Atlanta-based Fossey Fund.
Sustainable coffee pioneer Joan Katzeff of Thanksgiving Coffee Co. (Mendocino Coast, California) realized during a 2003 fact-finding mission that Rwandan coffee farmers could benefit from an agreement with the DFGFI and her company whose innovative model provides technical expertise, help with infrastructure development, Fair Trade prices and international market access.
Gorilla Fund Coffee will debut in Atlanta at the 16th annual Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) Conference and Exhibition April 23-26, 2004 at the Georgia World Conference Center in Atlanta.
Joan and her husband Paul Katzeff will also receive the SCAA’s first Sustainability Award, recognizing Thanksgiving Coffee Company’s work in Rwanda, at the Conference on Saturday, April 24th.
Our vision is simple: create partnerships that help farmers become self-reliant, pay a fair price for excellent coffee, and develop new models for protecting the environment, stated Paul Katzeff, co-founder and CEO of Thanksgiving Coffee Company.
Teaming up with Timothy Schilling, director of the Partnership to Enhance Agriculture in Rwanda through Linkages (PEARL) project, Katzeff helped develop eleven quality control cupping labs to be built throughout Rwanda. Cupping labs give family farmers the tools necessary to improve the quality of the coffee they sell, thereby increasing revenues from an international market hungry for quality.
The cupping labs are the pivotal piece from which all other aspects of quality development get their meaning, Schilling stated from his office in Butare, Rwanda. If a producer doesn’t know what his coffee tastes like, how can he make it taste better?
A similar project by Thanksgiving Coffee Company in Nicaragua helped create infrastructure that has boosted incomes for nine cooperatives, representing 6,000 farmers. Katzeff recently returned from a weeklong trip to Nicaragua, where he coordinated the meeting of Rwandan and Nicaraguan coffee farmers.
For Rwandan genocide survivor 26-year-old Gemima Mukashyaka, who will also be at the SCAA trade show, this innovative approach may come just in time. Mukashyaka is one of the founders of the Fair Trade Certified Abahuzamugambi cooperative, which represents more than 1,400 coffee producers in the southern Rwandan town of Kabuye.
Coffee has long been one of Rwanda’s most important exports, and for 500,000 family farmers, it’s their economic lifeblood. Economic instability and poor infrastructure, however, have been preventing farmers like Mukashyaka from seeing any profit from their beans.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, in a recent interview with the UK-based Guardian newspaper, highlighted the problem. In 1997, we produced about 14,500 tonnes of coffee and got from that $45 million. Last year we produced 19,000 tonnes and got less than half that amount.
While the villagers are struggling to regain a footing, so are the endangered mountain gorillas. Although a recent census shows an increase in the number of mountain gorillas since 1989, the population still remains extremely tiny, at a total of 380 individuals. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI) provides dawn-to-dusk monitoring and protection of the mountain gorillas, based on work begun by Dr. Dian Fossey more than 30 years ago.
Editors: For profiles of participating farmers, photos, samples, additional background, and to schedule interviews, visit www.StrausCom.com/thanksgiving, and contact Michael Straus at 415-777-1170, Michael@StrausCom.com