Barista Magazine

FEB-MAR 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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Page 27 of 99

F O A M : N E W S + T R E N D S TREES, WATER & PEOPLE—HONDURAS TOUR 2018 COFFEE PEOPLE ARE THE BEST PEOPLE, and it seems like spe- cialty-coffee professionals are constantly trying to fi nd ways to do better, be better, and, of course, buy better coffee. Sometimes those pathways to excellence and progress are found in coffee itself—paying higher prices, sourcing more sustainably grown lots, making commitments with farm- ers—and sometimes it's useful to look outside of coffee proper in order to make a meaningful impact in the coffee lands without necessarily being tied to a purchase or—a sometimes even stickier territory—charity. Carbon offsets are one major way that coffee companies are attempt- ing to reduce the impact of the footprint that doing this kind of work inevitably leaves: A quick spin around your favorite search engine will call up a plethora of options, from tree-planting to landfi ll-to-energy conversion to wind or solar power. In most cases, a corporation or small business calculates its carbon needs for a period of time, projecting as much as possible for growth, and then receives an estimate of how much it would cost to fund projects or efforts that counterbalance that usage. While many companies write their check and await some year-end re- porting, others want more involvement and engagement—your mileage may vary. For myself and my employer, Cafe Imports, there has been increasing interest in looking beyond a dollar sign to really investigate our offset program and seek other potentially more active ways to collaborate with our green partners. As our communications specialist and environmental-progress re- porter, I was recently invited to join our offset partners—the Fort Col- lins, Colo.-based organization Trees, Water & People—on a weeklong tour through some of their long-term projects in a coffee-producing area, of Honduras' Comayagua department, where I would be able to experience the work and see fi rsthand what opportunities there are for more close connection between our company missions. Trees, Water & People (TWP) is a small but mighty organization that was founded in 1998 by two friends and former foresters who joined forces with a simple goal in mind: to combat the rampant deforestation they witnessed throughout Central America. It wasn't long before they realized that their "simple" goal was up against a hugely complicated issue, and that deforestation is actually a symptom of other systematic problems plaguing the people and areas most affected. Through years of collaboration and integrated, consistent, long-term work in both urban and rural communities, TWP developed a holistic project model that doesn't aim to solve the issues but certainly provides participating families and groups with better tools, access, and information to combat the disenfranchisement that puts them and their land at great risk. In the communities we visited this past November, TWP and a local partner—an organic-agriculture school and advocate nonprofi t called Centro de Enseñanza Aprendizaje de Agricultura El Socorro, or CEASO—have teamed up on three main projects in collaboration with several different rural communities, where coffee is one of the main cash crops. The fi rst step is to establish tree nurseries to replace some of the native pine and cypress trees that have either been cut down or destroyed by disease and pests, as well as to plant fruit and shade trees for extra income. After that, community members are given the option of going in essentially halfsies on the construction of a cleaner, more fuel-effi cient cookstove that will cut their fi rewood use by as much as half as well as signifi cantly reduce the amount of smoke and soot that enters the house. (The family is responsible for building the stove's base and assisting in the design and occasionally the construction; TWP and CEASO along with trained community members provide bricks and other hard materials as well as assistance in building and maintaining the stoves.) The community may also work together with TWP and CEASO on the construction of shared or household rainwater cisterns that are constructed out of ferrocement and create stores of water for the dry season or in the case of a distant water source. In speaking to community members we visited on the tour, I not only was able to hear honest feedback about the projects (what trees had lived and which had died; how the stoves were so quick and clean they freed up time for the women of the house), but also to see the realities of coffee production without the context of being a buyer or actively sourcing from the farmers. What I saw were producers who are not necessarily growing what is considered "specialty," but who face many of the same—and often many more—obstacles that specialty growers do. Experiencing that fi rsthand gave me real pause, and caused me to refl ect on the ways that access to various other resources like native and shade trees, water, and safe heating and cooking equipment can begin to enfranchise people and free up energy for them to focus on other things, like improving coffee quality, for instance. As I continue to think about my visit with TWP and wonder about the ways that my company might fi nd new ways to partner with them on the ground in places like Comayagua, it occurred to me that other coffee companies that are seeking more intentional engagement might benefi t from looking into projects like these, or others doing similar work around the globe. Turns out they feel the same way: "By bringing experts in their fi eld together in partnership, we allow each organization to specialize in their unique arena in order to meet our common goals," says TWP Develop- ment Director Patricia Flores White in an email interview. "Collabora- tion is not only a fi scal cooperative but an authentic joint venture where individuals are mutually empowered by knowledge, technical assistance, [and] network and resource sharing for the communities we serve." Patricia reiterates that it's not only multimillion-dollar chains and corporations that can make a big difference: "Trees, Water & People offers a variety of levels in our Partnerships for a Sustainable Planet. Even smaller companies or cafés can participate. A little can go a long way when we are working as a collective." Whether you want to write a check or be the change, there's no doubt in my mind that the passion we collectively have for specialty coffee and our growing commitment to leave the world better than we found it can very easily join forces out there in the wider world and make a tangible difference. Who says coffee can't save the world? ÑEver Meister 28 barista magazine

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