Harlem Church Links With Ethiopian Coffee Growers – NYTimes.com

Harlem Church Links With Ethiopian Coffee Growers – NYTimes.com.

a friend of mine tipped me off to this article (thanks ben)

at a glance, atleast, this seems like a creative alternative to current, apparently less fruitful methods used by ethiopian farmers that directly benefits them, enhancing their capacity to produce and their profit. with coffee farming as such a common vocation in ethiopia, i wonder if there aren’t more immediate resources available but that’s a useless aside– creating direct relationships with a small community and investing in it’s development could produce better results than pumping in foreign aid.

There has been no shortage of aid money pumped into Ethiopia from international organizations and other nations, including the United States, which, according to the State Department, gave $4.7 billion in assistance from 1999 to 2009. But Mr. Richards said the Abyssinian Fund would not function as a traditional charity, as the farmers would share the responsibility for the project’s success.

“We are going to try to the best of our ability to provide the highest level of training and the most necessary equipment that the farmers need,” he said. “But it will be the farmers’ responsibility to reinvest. Reinvestment is going to be critical.”

there has also been no shortage of corporate agriculture manipulation as i learned from this documentary:

black gold: a film about coffee and trade

trade policy also complicates the lives of these farmers, especially since they sell the raw material, to which value is later added. the director of black gold explains it a bit:

One of the defining issues at the WTO is subsidies. Rich countries pay their farmers $300bn in subsidies every year making it impossible for developing countries to compete in the world market. This was supposed to be addressed at the world trade talks in Cancun in 2003, where we were filming. Developing countries accused the EU and US of reneging on their commitments outlined in the Doha Declaration and the talks collapsed. Since then these talks, which are fundamental to the livelihoods of millions of people, have yet to get back on track.

Whilst subsidies in the EU and US do not impact on the price of coffee, (as coffee is not grown in those countries), it does limit the options for coffee farmers who want to diversify into other crops…

However, one way how trade rules directly impacts on coffee producing countries is through high tariff barriers that rich countries apply to finished products coming from the poorest countries in the world. This makes it virtually impossible for coffee producers to export a packaged bag of coffee into the EU or US because it would be far too expensive for consumers.

Therefore, producing countries continue to export the raw beans which prevents them from capturing more of the value chain from a roasted packet of coffee.

i hope that the resources and development the Abyssinian group provides will translate into actual growth for these farmers. it’s unclear to me whether helping them provide a more quality/luxury good will quell any challenges presented by tariffs, but it might appeal more to a consumer base stateside.

“Instead of providing financial aid or food to the farmers, the Abyssinian Fund will hire coffee experts who are specialists in the processing and quality standards of companies like Starbucks that are the chief buyers of Ethiopia’s beans. Substandard processing has vexed the farmers’ efforts to command higher prices.

The trainers will also teach planting and harvesting techniques that help farmers grow and select only the choicest coffee beans, and the fund will provide equipment like scissors, shears and mechanized pickers to ensure that the beans are properly harvested. Many of these farmers still harvest their crops with their bare hands, Mr. Richards said.”

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