Coffee with a conscience

Coffee with a conscience

[ Published earlier … ]

Waterloo Region has some great coffee shops and decidedly opinionated coffee drinkers.

I thought this was an interesting press release about coffee and international development sent to me by Crossroads International, “an international development organization that is reducing poverty and increasing women’s rights around the world.

Working with local partners on 28 projects in eight countries and supported by hundreds of volunteers each year, Crossroads leverages expertise and resources, North and South, to help people overcome poverty and assert their rights. Crossroads is currently working in Bolivia, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.”

For more information about this organization, visit here.

And let me know your thoughts.

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Canadian volunteers are brewing up business for domestic coffee roasters, and every cup of coffee tells a story. On Monday, March 19, coffee with a most remarkable story will arrive in a shipping container at the Port of Vancouver.  Unlike most beans traded on international markets, this coffee was financed and marketed with the help of Canadian volunteers.

“This shipping container represents the culmination of years of volunteer cooperation,” said Tara Scanlan, a 24-year-old Nova Scotia resident and volunteer with Crossroads International, a Canadian international development organization funded in part by CIDA. “As a Canadian and a Crossroader, I am thrilled to see such clear proof that international cooperation pays off.”

Purchased jointly from a Bolivian coffee co-operative by five Canadian roasters from Victoria to Halifax, the shipment of 260 bags of premium fair-trade organic coffee is a major coup for overseas volunteers.

Crossroads volunteer Kevin McCarty from Vancouver, B.C., laid the groundwork for a new loan instrument to finance the coffee production. Later, Scanlan facilitated a trade mission that allowed small Canadian roasters and Bolivian farmers to cement their relationship.

Guelph's Planet Bean coffee (Photo: WREats).

Guelph’s Planet Bean coffee (Photo: WREats).

“The whole project was fabulous,” said William Allaway, CEO of Acadian Maple Products in Upper Tantallon, N.S., who participated in the mission. “It was well organized. The people on the ground were well prepared.”

Allaway’s company bought 40 bags of coffee after participating in last year’s mission to Caranavi, Bolivia. “Now we know that the people who actually make the coffee are getting the money that we’re paying,” he said. “We’re looking forward to doing business with Bolivian coffee farmers, and potentially teaming up on more projects with Crossroads in the future.”

The deal for 15,600 kilograms of coffee will mean fresh revenue for members of COAINE, a co-operative of rural producers in Bolivia, South America’s poorest country.  Government figures show 82 per cent of rural Bolivians live below the poverty line. According to the United Nations, lack of access to international markets is a key challenge for rural farmers.

The COAINE coffee was purchased at a fair price, with the proceeds flowing directly to 180 Bolivian families who can use the income to pay for school, food and other basic necessities. In this way, Canadian consumers are helping underprivileged people more than 8,000 kilometres away.

“The arrival of this shipping container in Vancouver is a concrete manifestation of the value of international cooperation,” Crossroads executive director and 2011 YWCA Woman of Distinction for Global Development Karen Takacs said. “Thanks to CIDA and the outstanding work of Crossroads volunteers and partners, rural families in Bolivia and Canada will get more than a new source of income. They will get the joy of producing and serving an outstanding, environmentally sustainable product.”

The shipment, purchased jointly by roasters supplying Halifax, Winnipeg, Victoria and Vancouver, will literally be sold coast to coast. Coffee roaster Derryl Reid said the trade would not have succeeded without Crossroads volunteers such as Scanlan, a Nova Scotia resident who acted as translator and guide for Canadian roasters visiting Bolivia.

“It’s been fantastic,” Reid said. “They’ve probably pushed our timeline ahead by two or three years. The support they’ve given us has been immense. Without Crossroads, without having people like that involved in the project, it could have fallen apart easily.”

For Banks Thomas, director of coffee for Salt Spring Coffee, a large, growing British Columbia roaster, the shipment could mark the beginning of a prosperous partnership.

“Hopefully it turns into a longer-term relationship, so we can do full containers,” Thomas said. “We’re always looking for more coffee.”


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