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  • The Dukunde Kawa Cooperative Story

    The Dukunde Kawa Cooperative Story

    “The cooperative is important for us because I have three children in secondary school—they are orphans from the genocide. We are farmers, and coffee is the crop that we use to raise the money for school tuition.”

    Stretching across a meandering chain of ridges and hills near the town of Musasa, in northern Rwanda, the 2,000+ members of the Dukunde Kawa Cooperative represent a new beginning for Rwanda and its hopes for the future.

    Working on plots of land so small that farmers often reference their farm size by the number of trees rather than the number of acres, a community recovering from the scars of a recent genocide is laying the foundation for peace and a prosperous future.

    Coffee is the economic lifeblood of Rwanda, accounting for nearly 80% of the country’s export earnings. In rural communities like Musasa, coffee provides income to families for their children’s education, for healthcare, and for the maintenance of their homes and farms. Working together as a cooperative, the members of Dukunde Kawa have been able to increase the quality of their coffee and the value by at least four times.

    We have worked closely with Dukunde Kawa since 2004 on a variety of social, economic, and environmental projects aimed at improving the quality of the farmers’ coffee and strengthening the cooperative and the benefits it offers to its members. The farmers are well on their way to establishing a strong and lasting cooperative. We are committed to ensuring that they are not alone in this process; both as a trusted buyer for their beautiful coffee and as a close project partner, we will continue to support the farmers and the development of their cooperative.

    Category_Farmers & Cooperatives

    The Dukunde Kawa Cooperative Story

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  • New Crop Arrival: Flor de Jinotega, Nicaragua

    New Crop Arrival: Flor de Jinotega, Nicaragua

    Flor de Jinotega, Nicaragua

    November 2010-January 2011 Harvest

    Nestled in the mountains above the regional capital Jinotega, the farmers of SOPPEXCCA grow coffee under the protective shade of bananas, mangos, and mahogany, and alongside dense forests providing home to dozens of rare orchids and winter habitat for hundreds of migratory songbirds. Jinotega is the heartland of Nicaragua’s coffee producing zone and many of the country’s finest coffees come from the thousands of small-scale family farms arrayed throughout the department’s lush mountain landscape.

    This landscape wasn’t always organized this way. Before the revolution of the 1980s many of these small family farms were actually consolidated in expansive haciendas owned by foreigners and the country’s elite and farmed with the intensive use of agrochemical fertilizers and pesticides. The farmers themselves were hired labor, invariably poorly paid. In fact, the genesis of the revolution itself traces directly to these large farms, and the thousands of farmers without access to land. One of the central demands and outcomes of the revolution was a process of land redistribution whereby farmers gained access to the land they had worked for generations. Cooperatives arose out of the need to organize these small farms in larger economic unions that could market coffee, facilitate much needed financing, and serve the community’s broad social, economic, and environmental needs.

    Though relatively small in membership, SOPPEXCCA has emerged as Jinotega’s leading cooperative. The cooperative represents 654 families and is recognized around the world as a leader in the movement to empower small-scale farmers, especially women and youth. SOPPEXCCA has built primary schools in its member communities, alongside pharmacies, cooperative grocery stores, and technical assistance centers. Extensive micro-credit programs offer members access to financing at a discount of 75% compared to locally available commercial finance. Long-term work to develop sustainable coffee production has resulted in a cooperatively-owned organic fertilizer production facility, innovative climate change adaptation efforts, and of course, ongoing coffee quality improvement programs.

    During the harvest, coffee is carefully picked, then depulped and fermented overnight before it is washed and sun-dried. Careful attention to the subtleties of processing and the farmer’s pride produce sweetly floral coffee, with notes of brown sugar and cacao, summer stone fruit, and lingering taste of milk chocolate.

    Cooperative SOPPEXCCA · Altitude 1,200 meters ·Region Jinotega •Processing wet/washed · Varietals bourbon, typica, caturra · Cooperative membership 654

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    Category_Farmers & Cooperatives

    New Crop Arrival: Flor de Jinotega, Nicaragua

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  • Ernesto Speaks: On the way it Is

    A new years message from Ernesto Somarriba Jinotega , Jan.1, 2011 When the old year was gone maybe you were happy because another year was coming. At that moment you were with the ones who you love and when 2010 ended you probably gave them a tight hug and kiss and celebrated with them.
    If you were a person who felt satisfied because you had completed all your goals for the last year, I think that you were feeling more comfortable.
    It is very common that when a new year is starting, you plan to reach those goals that you didn't get to achieve in the previous year or to plan your new goals for this year. I think that almost everybody does the same thing all over the world.
    At the same time, you wonder if this year will be good or bad for you. But it is true that most of the people feel and think positive and sometimes it doesn't depend on you.
    Here in Nicaragua, the people do the same thing, we plan what to do for the well being of our family and ourselves. For that reason the people who don't have work, they look for it; others who have work; they look for another one better in order to get better incomes to support their family; others who have the possibility to study at the university in order to become a professional, they go there; some others who don't have a house, they look for it; other Nicaraguans who came back from United States, Spain, Costa Rica, and other countries for the Christmas Holidays and New Year's vacation, they went back to those countries because they don't have any choice. They have to continue supporting their families here in Nicaragua.
    It is sad that you see that some families have to be separated again because that's their destiny. But what can I say, that is the way it is, and I think that the same situation happens in the rest of the world as well.
    This year will be very important for the Nicaraguans because this year we will have the Presidential election and the history is the same. The Sandinistas against the Liberales. Daniel Ortega will nominate himself again. He wants to continue being the Nicaraguan president, and the liberals, they don't have a clear candidate yet because all of them want to become a president. There is a guy whose name is Favio Gadea Mantilla. He wants to be nominated for President for the liberales but he won't get enough votes from the leaders of the liberal party. There is another guy, his name is Eduardo Montealegre. He also wants to become President. This guy lost the last election against Daniel. I think that this guy intends to hold together the liberal party but he is dividing it. I think that in this moment Daniel Ortega is taking advantage of this situation, but anyway, that's their problem. I only can say that the person who will be the next president of Nicaragua has to do the right things for the well being of the Nicaraguan population and for the well being of this country.
    Well, the old year is gone, the good food, the drinks, and parties are gone, and some members of your family are gone too. So we don't have to continue thinking about that anymore. We have to start working now in order to complete our goals from last year or to reach those goals that we aim for this year because only like that will we feel satisfied again at the end of this year, The only advice that I can give you is to work hard and don't wait for someone else to help you to reach those goals.

    Good Luck in 2011.

    Ernesto Speaks

    Category_Farmers & Cooperatives

    Ernesto Speaks: On the way it Is

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  • "Delicious Peace" Moves Forward

    Exciting news from Uganda this morning: after nearly 2 years of project development, The Peace Kawomera Cooperative is about to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the US Agency for International Development (the development wing of the State Department) for a $250,000 infrastructure development project.

    Just writing those words is a little surreal. It’s been a long time coming, three trips to Uganda, countless hours meeting, emailing, listening to each other on scratchy internet and cell phones. Most of all, it’s been a tireless effort led by JJ Keki and Muhammed Kakaire Hatibu, Peace Kawomera’s Chairman and Secretary Manager, respectively.

    The project will finance the construction of a world-class coffee processing and storage facility, which will avail the farmers with the best tools of the coffee trade. Now, for the first time in the history of coffee cultivation in Uganda, farmers will be able to bring out the full potential of their heirloom Bugisu Arabica varietals. The Cooperative will collect freshly picked, ripe cherries, and then control the process of depulping, fermenting, washing, and drying in a centralized facility. Based on the development of similar processing techniques in neighboring Kenya and Rwanda (where PKC recently visited our partner cooperative there to study the operation of a central washing station, read more), we expect the washing station to dramatically improve the quality of the farmers’ coffee. And we’re looking forward to paying more for each pound of coffee we buy.

    None of this would be possible if it were not for the support of our loyal customers, who not only lined up to build a market for this young cooperative’s coffee, but also enlisted the power of their coffee buying dollars, through our profit sharing partnership, and over the past 5 years, raised over $100,000 which bought the land and building materials that gave USAID the confidence they needed to invest further in this remarkable endeavor.

    Recently, we made some big changes in our project, and transitioned into a new phase of our partnership with the farmers. Instead of $1.00 per pound or package sold going back to Uganda, we dropped the rebate to $.25. At the same time, we increased the price to the farmers by $.20/lb. We hope to completely phase out the profit-sharing overtime, and replace it with ever increasing prices to the farmers. Please also note that we expect volumes to increase (because of clear price incentives and actual investment in increasing yields through better organic farming practices, pruning, and planting techniques). Instead of creating a continuing subsidy, we created a kind of front-loaded capital fund. This money sustained the rapid growth of a young cooperative, and got them to solid ground. Now they are up and running, and ready to grow.

    It’s almost too sweet to believe…but then it gets even better. Two days ago, arrival samples from our two incoming containers (75,000 lbs) arrived. I roasted them immediately, and cupped them yesterday. They are great. Sweeter than ever before, with more clarity and complexity, and a fuller expression of their unique character. All of this was made possible by better management of coffee buying, which the cooperative initiated themselves. And this was using their old machinery and processing methods…if the coffee is already improving this much, imagine how it will taste next year!

    Many thanks to Laura Wetzler and for their tireless work and for forging the initial connection with the Uganda-based USAID office. As with everything we’ve been able to do in Uganda, none of this would be possible without your contribution.

    You+coffee you love+farmers who love their coffee+a roasting company who loves farmers+4 years of hard work=

    Good coffee getting better+Farmers working smarter not harder+Incomes increasing+An interfaith peace-making initiative moving forward.

    That’s an equation we’re really proud of. Not just a cup, but a just cup.


    "Delicious Peace" Moves Forward

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  • Part II: All You Need to Know About Growing Coffee Trees in Your Home

    The Beauty of Growing Coffee Trees in Your Home

    • From Thanksgiving Coffee Company, the 2017 Roaster of the Year •
    • Shop award-winning roasts Kenyan Peaberry, floral Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, and the beloved fruity-chocolatey Paul’s Blend.

    The coffee tree is an evergreen. It does not shed its leaves. They are on the tree year round. That makes them good for indoor beautification. You can get them to grow into a tree that is 5-8 feet tall or you can train them to be a bush 3-4 feet tall. They are pretty flexible.

    Where to find coffee tree seedlings:

    I have found them most consistently in places like Safeway, Longs, Rite Aid and Whole Foods flower Departments. These places carry mostly impulse items when it comes to plants. I think they all have the same supplier, or it seems that way. Your local florist may have them too and if they don’t carry them in stock, they will order a pot or two for you.

    What to look for:

    Seedlings in the stores are no more then 3-4 inches tall and are about 3 months old . They were grown from seed. Usually, they will come in a 2-4 inch pot, and there will be four to six little starts bunched together in the center to make it look substantial. Price is usually between $4.95 – $8.95.

    What to do when you get the pot of seedlings home;

    You have purchased one pot but you have acquired six trees. You don’t want them to grow up together so you need to separate them and repot each seedling in a 4 inch diameter pot. Here’s how you do it: Submerge the pot of seedlings in a bowl of warm water that is on the cool side of warm. Leave overnight . This does two things. It allows the seedlings to load up on water and it softens the potting soil . Get your potting soil and 4 inch pots together for your replanting . Now remove the loose ball of soil with the seedlings from their pot and lay on some newspaper . Slowly and softly pull the seedlings apart. Don’t be afraid of killing the trees ,they are very hardy and strong. Now repot each individual seedling in its own 4 inch pot. Six trees for the price of one !

    Lets talk soil and repotting;

    For the four inch pot and your initial repotting, you should use an organic potting soil. It is rich enough in nutrients to feed the plant until it is eight inches tall. You won’t need to add fertilizer to get the trees to 8 inches. Now things begin to change because at eight inches tall, the tree has spread out it’s root system throughout the small pot and unless you repot to a larger vessel, the tree will not grow much more. So, move the tree into a 12 -18 inch pot . This is large enough to add in soil amendments. At this stage of the plants growing history it needs lots of Nitrogen so keep that in mind . We are helping the tree grow trunk, branches and leaves. That requires lots of nitrogen. This pot stage should take your tree up to the 24-36 inch size. (this should take 12 to 18 months) .

    When the tree gets to the 24-36 inch size it is time for it’s final repotting into a half wine barrel or the equivalent. Now your tree is ready to kick into high gear because it senses that it can grow a root system that can support full production. Within one year from this last repotting your tree will have grown to four feet and it will begin to create beautiful white flowers that will fill your home with the scent of Jasmine and orange blossoms.Nitrogen is no longer needed in growth level amounts . Now it is the flower and fruit supporting supplements that are needed. Rose food is my favorite coffee food but try to stay as organic as you can. It effects the flavor of the coffee you will be getting and you don’t need to support companies that manufacture oil based chemical fertilizers.

    Flowering Phase: It lasts about a month. The sweet aroma will blow you away, but that will come to an end just about the time you are tired of coming home to paradisiacal aromatics. Coffee is self pollinating so do not worry about pollination. The flowers form at the nodes on each branch, just behind the leaves. Each flower will become a fruit (coffee cherry). The flowers will turn brown and fall off the branch. Not to worry. Left behind is the carpel, a small round ball that over the next six months will grow into a fruit with one or two seeds. The seeds are known as “coffee beans.”

    Jungle Jasmine : Coffee Flowers

    The Fruiting Phase:

    This phase lasts about six months. Coffee cherries ripen slowly. For the first 5 months they will be green and rock hard. Then they will begin to lighten and turn pink and then cherry red, then dark red to purple. Dark red is when you pick the cherries.


    Watering; Coffee trees like water and need enough to feed the leaves and support the fruit. But they don’t like to sit in water so water from the top, like rain waters forests. Water until the water comes out the bottom of the Pot. Use warm water. That is what the tree would get in the tropics. Why shock the tree as if it was jumping into an ice cold lake? Warm water feels good to the tree just as it does to our face when we wash. And if you live where the air is cold at night , you can bet the soil is cold too. So warm up the soil and you have better growing conditions, conditions that the tree will recognize and be thankful for.


    Where to place tour growing and mature tree;

    Coffee is a shade loving tree that grows under the canopy of the forest . It needs little direct sunlight . Direct sunlight after noon time will fry the leaves and kill the tree. Yo need to position your tree so it gets morning direct sun. This is perfect light . East facing windows do the trick. As the sun goes to the west , the light coming into your home from an easterly window is soft , yet still bright enough to provide the equivalent of shaded sun. If you bring your tree outside, remember, a 10 minute frost will kill it and so will 3 hours of direct afternoon sunlight between May and November.

    Cherry Picking and Roasting:

    When the cherries are ripe, and they will all ripen over a 2 month ripening period, you have to take them from the tree. With a simple twist and pull they will come off easily.


    Pick once a week , only the true red all over ripe cherries. Squeeze the seeds out of the cherries and drop them into a bowl of water for 24 hours. This softens the remaining pulp stuck to the beans and makes it easy to remove after the beans are dried. Place the beans onto some newspaper ( it is important that the stories on the page are positive and uplifting) and allow them to dry slowly. Sun drying is good but watch out you do not bake them. They should take about a week to dry to a stable condition. Repeat the process until all your cherries are picked and put to dry. Don’t forget to taste the pulp!

    Roasting is the next step in this cycle. That is for another time and another blog entry.

    Part III: Caring For Your Coffee Tree

    Growing Coffee at Home

    Part II: All You Need to Know About Growing Coffee Trees in Your Home

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