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Posts Tagged ‘coop’

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Photo: Dean’s Beans
A visit to growers in Peru.

A friend on the commuter train got me into buying the very delicious coffee of Dean’s Beans a couple years ago.

I was initially intrigued by the idea that you could create a special blend and name it for somebody as a gift. But I soon learned there was even more to admire about the way Dean and his company are raising the living standards of the farmers they work with in poor countries.

A recent email newsletter from Dean shows what I mean.

“Each visit to our farmer partners is an amazing experience. Sometimes happy, sometimes sad, but always both a learning experience and a chance to go deeper into our quest to bring positive change to the world. My recent muddy, buggy, flood and storm delayed trip to Pangoa Coop on the slopes of the Peruvian Amazon was no exception. (Facebook photo album here!)

“Our 13 year-long reforestation project has resulted in huge forest tracts and more income for the farm families of Pangoa. Walking amongst the bird-filled, mixed-story forests towering over the coffee plants on the farms of Avelino, Rodrigo and Sabino, I am so humbled and thrilled to see where the farmers have gone with a little help from their friends.

“They have started in their nursery, planted and grown over thirty thousand hardwood trees through the program, and we are looking at twenty thousand more in the next two years. Their low-tech, highly productive bokashi composting program has helped farmers resist and overcome the devastation of La Roya (Rust fungus) in recent years. What amazing resilience!

“You can join us on a walk-through of this lush, healthy coffee forest on our Javatrekker YouTube Channel! …

“I have also been talking to Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center about including Pangoa in their Bird Friendly certification program.  We had several community meetings to explain the program. The farmers are totally into it and they will easily pass with flying colors (just look at the toucans and tanagers!). We are now arranging the inspector visits and have agreed to pay all of the administrative costs so that Pangoa can seamlessly integrate Bird Friendly certification into their portfolio of progress.

“Similarly, during meetings with CODEMU, their women’s organization, lots of women shared their success stories as the loan fund we got started ten years ago continues to support these hard working women. …

“Wow, am I blessed to have such a fulfilling and damned fun life!”

More here. Follow Dean on twitter @Deans_Beans.

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In an article by the “Cooperative Development News” at Mother Earth News (by way of twitter), I read about a group of Somali Bantu refugees in Maine who started a cooperative farm.

This interests me particularly because when I was at the magazine, I acquired a couple articles about Somali refugees adjusting to life in Lewiston, Maine, through farming.

Here’s the story: “A group of Somali Bantu refugees have started a cooperative farm in Maine … Thousands of miles from Somalia, on 30 acres in Maine’s second-largest city, they’ve begun to feel like they’ve come home.

“New Roots Cooperative Farm, though just recently started by four new Americans, is already a success story. Combine the complexities of farming with the uncertainty of navigating a system that is unfamiliar — and, at times, unfriendly — to newcomers and you’ll understand just a fraction of how far New Roots has already come. They’re inspired to help one another and the community, too.

“ ‘Our aim is not only to grow food and run a business ourselves but to help our community and teach them about how to run a business,’ says New Roots farmer Batula Ismail. …

“The group used to farm before being forced from their homes during Somalia’s tumultuous civil war period. … After arriving in Maine, they got back to farming at Cultivating Community’s New American Sustainable Agriculture Project at Packard-Littlefield Farm in Lisbon, Maine. The program empowers New Americans to launch independent farm businesses, to adopt new leadership roles in the community, and to attain increased economic independence for themselves and their families.

“Now, with a decade of experience at Packard-Littlefield backing them up, the group is ready to put their education to the test. When Gendron Farm, a dairy farm in Lewiston was divided into several parcels in 2015, New Roots worked with Cooperative Development Institute, Maine Farmland Trust, Land for Good, Cultivating Community, and many others to preserve 30 acres as a working farm.” More here.

I’ve been interested in Somali immigrants since living for three years in Minneapolis, where there is a large population. I was friendly with one man who worked in our apartment building, ran for mayor, and got a job as a community liaison for a US Senator. Very nice guy. I loved his stories about being a child in Somalia, soaking up geography from international radio news, and pausing for a camel to get off the field when he was playing soccer.

Photo: Jenny Nelson/Maine Farmland Trust
Bantu refugees start a cooperative farm in Maine.

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After Haiti’s devastating earthquake three years ago, money flowed in. Today many funders have retreated, but a 5,000-farmer coffee-growing coop is showing it can manage with guidance and small loans.

Daniel Jensen at Global Envision (a Mercy Corps blog) writes, “Root Capital is providing loans and consulting expertise to COOPCAB, a Haitian coffee co-op that markets its products internationally while investing money in local reforestation efforts that improve its own production. The cooperative, which has expanded six-fold under Root Capital’s guidance, now includes 5,000 members …

“Managing COOPCAB comes with its own set of challenges. Meeting them requires a model that creates local business leaders rather than simply employing foreign relief workers. Root Capital’s Willy Foote explains:

” ‘COOPCAB … is managed by local Haitian farmers with little formal training in financial management and accounting. … As a consequence, we’ve had to innovate and hone our business model in Haiti, slowing our lending in the short term while accelerating and deepening our financial advisory services program.’ …

“Soon, Haitian entrepreneurs may find new opportunities to replicate COOPCAB’s model, as [U.S.] Ambassador [Paul] Altidor has asked Foote to help advise formal policy decisions. Haitian minister of agriculture Thomas Jacques also plans to create a rice commission focused on increasing domestic production.” More.

Consider buying your coffee beans at COOPCAB and giving Haiti a helping hand.

Photograph: coffeeresearch.org

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