Tag Archive for: Kenya

Radio Lifeline

Coffee Lifeline / Black Earth Project

Categories: 2013, JulyTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Radio 2Project Description
Radio Lifeline is a US-registered 501© 3 non-profit orga­ni­za­tion that pro­vides farm­ers in the devel­op­ing world with access to vital infor­ma­tion that can have a sig­nif­i­cant and pos­i­tive impact in their lives, those of their fam­i­lies, and in the com­mu­ni­ties where they live. The tools we use are designed to be low-tech, locally appro­pri­ate, and sus­tain­able in their design. Each of our projects are devised to be both replic­a­ble and scal­able, based on a foun­da­tion of col­lab­o­ra­tive part­ner­ship with indus­try stake­hold­ers, uni­ver­si­ties, research insti­tu­tions, and other NGO’s, in sup­port of their indi­vid­ual out­reach and edu­ca­tion efforts.

Since 2005, our Coffee Lifeline project has broad­cast over 425 radio pro­grams to the cof­fee pro­duc­ing com­mu­ni­ties of Rwanda, while also reach­ing into parts of Uganda, Burundi, and the DRC. Earlier this year we com­pleted the first phase of our expan­sion project, debut­ing the first Coffee Lifeline broad­casts in Kenya, through a new part­ner­ship with the Kenya Meteorological Department and its regional com­mu­nity radio sta­tion, Radio Kangema, located in the Murang’a dis­trict. Each weekly broad­cast con­tains infor­ma­tion regard­ing agro­nomic best prac­tices, coöper­a­tive devel­op­ment and sus­tain­abil­ity, cli­mate change, early child­hood, mater­nal health, HIV/AIDS edu­ca­tion, nutri­tion, food secu­rity, eco­nomic diver­si­fi­ca­tion, and finan­cial lit­er­acy. Along with a series of children’s sto­ries fea­tured at the close of each program.

The Coffee Lifeline project is designed to address issues stem­ming from infor­ma­tion poverty in a world that is wit­ness­ing accel­er­ated change within both its envi­ron­ment and through its tech­nolo­gies. In a world of instant com­mu­ni­ca­tion, infor­ma­tion has become one of the world’s most pow­er­ful forms of inter­na­tional cur­rency. We believe that farm­ers are most able to make deci­sions that reflect the val­ues and needs of their fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties when they have access to reli­able, con­sis­tent infor­ma­tion from a vari­ety of sources that help to address their eco­nomic as well as social devel­op­ment needs.

Earlier this year, Radio Lifeline launched the Black Earth Project, a two year research ini­tia­tive designed to eval­u­ate the effec­tive­ness of biochar when used as a soil amend­ment by small scale cof­fee farm­ers. Biochar is pro­duced through a process called pyrol­y­sis, or the burn­ing of dried bio­mass in a low or zero oxy­gen atmos­phere. This process pre­vents com­bus­tion and the usual release of car­bon diox­ide, black car­bon, and other green­house gases asso­ci­ated with tra­di­tional char­coal pro­duc­tion meth­ods. When used as a soil amend­ment, biochar has demon­strated the abil­ity to effec­tively increase crop yields, reduce nutri­ent leach­ing, help retain mois­ture, reduce soil acid­ity, and improve sur­round­ing water qual­ity while sig­nif­i­cantly reduc­ing the need for addi­tional irri­ga­tion and fer­til­izer inputs. Biochar has also been cited as an effec­tive approach to car­bon seques­tra­tion, remain­ing sta­ble in the soil for up to a thou­sand years.

The Black Earth Project is being con­ducted within 6 cof­fee coop­er­a­tives, located in each of the major cof­fee grow­ing areas of Rwanda. Six Climate Kilns, made from repur­posed oil drums, are being uti­lized to enable farm­ers to man­u­fac­ture biochar from agri­cul­tural crop residues such as dried corn stalks, grasses, cof­fee pulp, rice hulls as well as cow manure, and wood chips. Eighteen test plots were planted with bush beans on March 15 and early results demon­strated yield increases in each of the plots uti­liz­ing biochar. These same plots will be used for cof­fee seedlings in October of this year, with appli­ca­tion to exist­ing cof­fee trees sched­uled to take place in early 2014. As biochar only requires one appli­ca­tion per plot, each Climate Kiln was sup­plied with a tool to make char­coal bri­quettes, cre­at­ing another poten­tial rev­enue stream for coop­er­a­tives, while also help­ing to decrease the rate of local deforestation.

radio 6Who Benefits from this project?
Although our projects are pri­mar­ily con­cerned with the lives and liveli­hoods of cof­fee farm­ers, they also address the needs of farmer fam­ily mem­bers, as well as the many com­mu­ni­ties where farm­ers reside. Our Coffee Lifeline broad­casts reach more than 300,000 farm­ers in Rwanda, as well as an esti­mated 100,000 farm­ers in Kenya. These weekly pro­grams pro­vide lis­ten­ers with access to infor­ma­tion that can have a pos­i­tive impact on the social, health, and eco­nomic lives of count­less indi­vid­u­als and com­mu­ni­ties, link­ing them through a con­sis­tent and reli­able web of information.The Black Earth Project cur­rently ben­e­fits an esti­mated 2,500 pro­duc­ers within 6 coop­er­a­tives through­out Rwanda, while its abil­ity to be eas­ily repli­cated in most cof­fee grow­ing regions around the world could impact a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of pro­ducer com­mu­ni­ties worldwide.

How Can I Help?
Our work relies on the will­ing­ness of diverse indi­vid­u­als, com­pa­nies and foun­da­tions to make an invest­ment in the future of cof­fee farm­ing, help­ing to make it a viable way of life for the cur­rent, as well as the next, gen­er­a­tion of cof­fee pro­duc­ers. The suc­cess of our projects depends on col­lab­o­ra­tion between a wide vari­ety of indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions that share in the com­mon goal of achiev­ing a more sus­tain­able sys­tem of global agri­cul­ture. We invite any­one will­ing to par­tic­i­pate in this process, either through col­lab­o­ra­tive effort or finan­cial con­tri­bu­tion, to con­tact us at their ear­li­est convenience.

Contact Name:     Peter Kettler
Location:     Barneveld, WI USA
Email Address:
Phone Number:     608.437.7275

Sorrow. Anger. Inspiration.

Categories: 2013, MayTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Rocky RhodesIf you are a reg­u­lar reader of CoffeeTalk, you will know that I get a pretty free reign to write about a topic that moves me in the cof­fee world. And usu­ally I try to find a topic that is not some­thing that every­one is talk­ing about and try to do it in a way that might make you think about some­thing new. This will not be the case for this arti­cle how­ever. I am going to write about some­thing that has affected every one of us deeply. I am of course refer­ring to the Boston bombings.

Before I con­tinue, please know that I am writ­ing this in the first per­son because these are MY opin­ions and may or may not reflect those of CoffeeTalk. But again, they are let­ting me write about what I think will move the cof­fee indus­try reader.

There was some­thing else going on in Boston that week­end other than the Marathon. It was of course SCAA’s ‘The Event’ and Symposium. If you were not there, shame on you! It was arguably one of the best con­fer­ences yet. My hats off to the SCAA for con­tin­u­ing to find new ways to engage its mem­ber­ship and pro­vide new and inter­est­ing lev­els to the industry.

Many of you expe­ri­ence the indus­try in the same way as me; The Event is a place where we not only come to learn and do some busi­ness, but a place where we get to see old friends, and dare I say extended fam­ily. At times it takes on a fra­ter­nal feel­ing that tends to deepen the con­nec­tion between us.  This indus­try is like no other in that we desire that every com­pany is suc­cess­ful and are more likely to help a com­peti­tor than see them fail. In the top end of the cof­fee mar­ket, which is where we oper­ate, we know that a ris­ing tide raises all ships.

Our ‘fam­ily’ extends to all ends of the earth. At this con­fer­ence there were rep­re­sen­ta­tives from dozens of coun­tries and every con­ti­nent. (Antarctica?) Anyway, our desire to help extends beyond the bor­ders of the United States and into every part of the world that either pro­duces or con­sumes cof­fee, and that is pretty much the whole darn globe.

Our fam­ily, along with every civ­i­lized human being, was attacked on Monday, April 15th, at the Boston Marathon. I was for­tu­nate enough to leave Boston on Sunday night, get­ting back to Los Angeles at about 1am Monday. I was euphor­i­cally exhausted from another great SCAA show. I went about my busi­ness on Monday until I got the news about the attack. Like most peo­ple, I had to stop for a sec­ond to try and make sense out of what was hap­pen­ing. Then the real­iza­tion hit me that a huge num­ber of my cof­fee fam­ily were still in Boston and some were going to the Marathon.

I started send­ing mes­sages to find out if every­one was ok. It took a while, but every­one I knew was there was accounted for and ok. There were a cou­ple of close calls. In par­tic­u­lar, I knew my Kenyan friend Mbula and my Vermont friend Rick were at the race and it turns out they were in prox­im­ity to the bombs. Close enough to hear and feel the explo­sions. When I knew every­one was ok, I fell to my knees and cried.  SORROW for all those dead, injured and traumatized.

After some griev­ing, I was flooded with an emo­tion that I do not enjoy, and don’t expe­ri­ence often; ANGER. I really wanted to lash out at what­ever M*th$rF@#er did this and get some blood. I real­ize that this is a nor­mal reac­tion, although prob­a­bly not the most healthy. But I was to my core will­ing to bring a lit­tle jus­tice down on some­body and I was not con­sid­er­ing the court sys­tem! This feel­ing lasted for a while but it gave way, as it usu­ally does, to the feel­ing of want­ing to do some­thing positive.

I made a deci­sion to chan­nel my neg­a­tive feel­ings into the most pow­er­ful ques­tion that I could think of at the time: “ What could I do to show that I will not be ter­ror­ized AND make a dif­fer­ence in the world so this might not hap­pen again.” You see, I believe in the whole ‘rip­ple effect’ the­ory. What was the peb­ble I could throw in the pond? When you ask pow­er­ful ques­tions, you get pow­er­ful answers. My INSPIRATION is this: I am going to run the marathon next year AND I am going to ask my cof­fee fam­ily to join me! I was so enthralled with my own bril­liance that I went out for a run. About ½ mile of wheez­ing later… I was com­mit­ted! I sent the word out to some friends and fam­ily and the response has been, well, aston­ish­ing! I have two peo­ple that have agreed to do it with me and sup­port from many others.

Now we fast for­ward to one week later. The two thugs are dead and cap­tured. (Thank you to all the agen­cies and cit­i­zens that made it pos­si­ble! Great work!) I am sit­ting in Colombia and even here we are ecsta­tic about the cap­ture of the sec­ond idiot. But some time has passed, and some impor­tant infor­ma­tion has come to light: Apparently you have to QUALIFY for the Boston marathon. There is a pretty strong chance that our newly formed team will not get invited to run. INSPIRATION num­ber 2 hit me! Have a “Coffee Marathon”.

Here is my work­ing plan in progress. We will have a run in Boston at the same time but we will start at a ‘Coffee Place’ and run to other cof­fee places along the way. People can join for all of the run, seg­ments of the run, or just party at one of the var­i­ous stops. This way the whole indus­try can get involved. Our fam­ily can stand tall and say we won’t be bul­lied by thugs! We can have a HUGE rip­ple effect as run­ners from Indonesia and Kenya and Colombia etc. join in this effort. Our indus­try can do what it does best: Lead by exam­ple and chal­lenge each other to do better.

So this is my open call to my cof­fee fam­ily: Join me in Boston in 2014 for a ‘Coffee Industry Caffeine-a-thon.’ (It’s a work­ing title). I will post more info on If this story inspires you, send me an email. I would love to hear what you think!

I am already up to a mile!
Rocky can be reached at

At Origin it Takes a Village…

Categories: 2013, MarchTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

When think­ing about cof­fee at ori­gin, we think in terms of fla­vor pro­files, pro­cess­ing meth­ods and price. But cof­fee at ori­gin is really about an indus­try made of peo­ple. Good peo­ple pulling together can make a great prod­uct. This arti­cle explores the efforts in one ori­gin coun­try, Kenya, to get the cof­fee to mar­ket and to us. They tend to work together well as a team, and the result is, as expected an out­stand­ing selec­tion of truly spe­cial coffees.

The Farmer and His Family
Meet Mr. Muchomba. He has had this cof­fee farm near Mt. Kenya for the last few decades. He moved his fam­ily here when he was able to buy the farm. He has 12 chil­dren and has man­aged to raise them with good val­ues and an appre­ci­a­tion for hard work. Mr. Muchomba knows that he has done bet­ter than some of his neigh­bors because he stud­ied about cof­fee, agron­omy, and under­stands that qual­ity cof­fee will gar­ner a higher price at mar­ket. He is looked up to in his com­mu­nity as a leader. He remains the head of the community’s cof­fee coöper­a­tive even though he has tried to retire. He knows that the com­mu­nity needs him. His chil­dren have grown so he hires a lot of the work done on the farm and keeps a watch­ful eye.

A strong cof­fee com­mu­nity has a strong orga­ni­za­tion. In many of the com­mu­ni­ties this is a coöper­a­tive where a mem­ber owns a por­tion of the orga­ni­za­tions prof­its based directly on the pro­duc­tion vol­ume they bring from their own farm. Most of the cof­fee will be mixed together rather than held as sep­a­rate lots. To a Western observer, this may seem a lit­tle unfair where peo­ple like Mr. Muchomba whose cof­fee could be a lot more prof­itable by itself is mixed with all of his neigh­bors’ cof­fee to raise its over­all value for the com­mu­nity. But val­ues are a lit­tle dif­fer­ent because the needs of the vil­lage out­weigh the needs of any one indi­vid­ual farmer.

Cooperatives have addi­tional respon­si­bil­i­ties other than just col­lect­ing and pro­cess­ing cher­ries. One of the most impor­tant roles is the shar­ing of infor­ma­tion on best prac­tices for every­thing from seedling selec­tion, prun­ing, selec­tive pick­ing and pro­cess­ing tech­niques. Another respon­si­bil­ity is find­ing buy­ers for the cof­fee. In Kenya this is done through the cof­fee auc­tion. The path to the cof­fee auc­tion can be tricky so help is needed from other entities.

Coffee Traders Association of Kenya
This group was formed by its mem­bers to assist the traders to build con­nec­tions with coop­er­a­tives and to assist in the edu­ca­tion of its mem­bers on how to deal with the dif­fer­ent lots that are being brought forth from the fields. It is also a group that does some mar­ket­ing to the con­sum­ing world that wants to build bet­ter rela­tion­ships in Kenya with the var­i­ous exporters. One of Mr. Muchomba’s sons went off to col­lege and found him­self back in cof­fee, but not at the farm. He now works in Nairobi as the Executive Director of the Kenya Coffee Traders Association. He takes his role extremely seri­ously because he knows that his efforts will build a stronger cof­fee sup­ply from Kenya, and, by default, help his fam­ily achieve even more money for their lots. One way he helps coop­er­a­tives is build­ing rela­tion­ships between the farm­ers / coop­er­a­tives and the agents that can get their cof­fee into the Kenya Coffee Auction.

Marketing Agents
This per­son does not own any cof­fee to buy or to sell. Their func­tion is to be the eyes and ears for their clients, the farm­ers, to know when to put their cof­fee onto the auc­tion plat­form. They watch sup­ply and demand and can sug­gest what price can be expected for the var­i­ous grades of cof­fee. In the end the deci­sion is up to the farm­ers them­selves as to when to send the cof­fee, but a good mar­ket­ing agent will work to get the high­est price for their client.

Government Auction
Coffee sold from Kenya comes through a weekly auc­tion in Nairobi. Marketing Agents bring the lot infor­ma­tion to the auc­tion. Samples are pro­vided to exporters who might be inter­ested. They have the oppor­tu­nity to eval­u­ate the cof­fee on behalf of the auc­tion (and for them­selves) to help the cof­fee real­ize a qual­ity level when it is sub­mit­ted to the auc­tion. Information is shared among the lim­ited num­ber of exporters.

The auc­tion is an elec­tronic ver­sion of the open out­cry auc­tion. It is held in a room, but the par­tic­i­pants have com­puter screens and bid elec­tron­i­cally. The coop­er­a­tives, through the mar­ket­ing agents, have set a floor price for the lots that the cof­fee will not sell below. This is a very strate­gic price and a good Marketing Agent will know both when to put the cof­fee into the auc­tion and what the best floor price should be to get the high­est final price.

Exporters at the auc­tion bid on lots that they know a lit­tle bit about. They have tasted the cof­fee, know how much is avail­able and where the cof­fee is com­ing from. They also know what orders they need to fill for their clients and go into the auc­tion search­ing for the right mix of lots. Now they have to bid against the other exporters for the lots they need. This mech­a­nism cre­ates an even play­ing field for the Kenya cof­fee indus­try as it favors qual­ity and is very transparent.

Coffee Research Foundation
In an effort to keep the qual­ity of cof­fee high in Kenya, tax money is used to fund the Coffee Research Foundation. It is here that for decades research has been done on plant hus­bandry, pest erad­i­ca­tion, dis­ease con­trol and process improve­ment. They share this infor­ma­tion with any­one and every­one in an effort to increase qual­ity, sta­bil­ity and health of the cof­fee crop.

African Fine Coffee Association
AFCA acts as mar­ket­ing and pro­mo­tion for African cof­fees. It also helps spread some best prac­tices through­out the con­ti­nent. For Kenya they assist by help­ing to sup­ply experts from the out­side world and share infor­ma­tion. This is done in coöper­a­tion with both Kenyan gov­ern­ment agen­cies as well as with groups such as USAID.

In the end, it takes a vil­lage to increase the value of cof­fee for Kenya. One of the most sig­nif­i­cant rea­sons that Mr. Muchomba can pro­vide for his fam­ily and help his com­mu­nity is because his actual vil­lage is world­wide. The entire world vil­lage also wants him to be suc­cess­ful because if he is, we will con­tinue to get great cof­fee from Kenya.

Rocky can be reached at

Initiatives That Create Change

Categories: 2012, JulyTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Contact Name: Marilyn Dryke

Location: Latin America
Email Address:
Phone Number: 800−791−1181

Project Description

Since 2003, women cof­fee farm­ers, liv­ing in extremely impov­er­ished con­di­tions have been qui­etly work­ing to make their fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties health­ier with the sup­port and access to resources pro­vided through the Café Femenino Foundation.

By focus­ing the lead­er­ship, plan­ning, and decision-making processes into the hands of the women cof­fee farm­ers of the com­mu­nity, the Foundation has been suc­cess­fully sup­port­ing ini­tia­tives set forth by the Café Femenino vision. A few of these ini­tia­tives include gen­der equity, food secu­rity, and income diver­si­fi­ca­tion. It is through a multi-layered approach that the Foundation has been able to sup­port changes that are both sus­tain­able and revolutionary.

One of the many issues that cre­ate poverty in the cof­fee­lands is the glar­ing imbal­ance that exists in the lev­els of edu­ca­tion between men and women. This wide­spread prob­lem is due to the lack of impor­tance a woman/girl is per­ceived as hav­ing inside of the cul­ture. This plays out in the access to edu­ca­tion, train­ings, and work­shops inside their farmer’s coop­er­a­tives also. It is com­mon that the male mem­bers of the farm­ers’ coöper­a­tive will attend train­ings but the women will not have access. The Café Femenino Foundation looks for oppor­tu­ni­ties to rebal­ance the edu­ca­tional lev­els when pos­si­ble. The 2012 Coffee Production Training Project is one such oppor­tu­nity for women to receive education.

2012 Coffee Production Training Project: In Guatemala, one focus area is on Educational Equality between men and women, sup­port­ing train­ings specif­i­cally for the women coöper­a­tive mem­bers, which are tra­di­tion­ally attended only by male coöper­a­tive mem­bers. We are look­ing to sup­port one such project with a $3,000 grant in Guatemala. Organic pro­duc­tion requires more labor and organic fer­til­izer knowl­edge. The women of this coöper­a­tive have expressed the need to become more edu­cated in these areas of pro­duc­tion. The grant cre­ates edu­ca­tional equal­ity by pro­vid­ing the train­ing to the women who are usu­ally not actively inte­grated in these types of events. Access to these train­ings held specif­i­cally for women will give Café Femenino farm­ers the knowl­edge needed to boost their yields and thus, their incomes. Educating women goes a long way to com­bat poverty.

Another ini­tia­tive of focus for the Café Femenino Foundation is that of Income Diversification. Many impov­er­ished cof­fee farm­ers find them­selves in risky sit­u­a­tions by invest­ing in cof­fee farm­ing as a sole source of income. To com­bat this, the Foundation sup­ports ways for the women cof­fee farm­ers to cre­ate addi­tional and diverse income sources. This gives the women the oppor­tu­nity to have other finan­cial resources and sup­ple­ment their income whether the cof­fee har­vest is good or not. Such pro­grams have brought about tremen­dous change and oppor­tu­ni­ties for women and their chil­dren who do not have access to resources. This year the Foundation looks to sup­port this in Kenya with the 2012 Goat Project that can be imple­mented for a cost of $3,000.

The project includes the pur­chase of baby goats, train­ings on care, vet­eri­nary sup­port, nutri­tion, and mar­ket­ing train­ing to sell prod­ucts made with goat’s milk. This project will allow Café Femenino women farm­ers to pro­vide an addi­tional income source to the fam­ily as well as increase the nutri­tional intake of their chil­dren. Its imple­men­ta­tion has the abil­ity to dras­ti­cally change the lifestyle of cof­fee farm­ing fam­i­lies in remote areas, and poten­tially cre­ate pos­i­tive changes within the entire community.

The Café Femenino Foundation works in 9 coun­tries where cof­fee pro­duc­tion and extreme poverty inter­sect. To adopt a project or to donate to the Foundation, visit To find out more about Café Femenino visit

Who Benefits From This Project?

Projects like these, put into the hands of the women cof­fee pro­duc­ers, cre­ate a par­a­digm shift that is occur­ring in most of the com­mu­ni­ties where the Foundation is work­ing. The women are seen as orga­niz­ers, decision-makers, and con­nected to resources for the first time. The men see the pos­i­tive changes and give their sup­port. As the men begin to see the women as lead­ers for the first time, the inclu­sion and inte­gra­tion of the women into decision-making posi­tions begins to take place. The com­mu­nity is strength­ened, the fam­i­lies are health­ier, and the future looks that much brighter. The men begin to acknowl­edge the intel­li­gence of the women. And when the women have a voice; the other half of the sky is held up.

How Can I Help?

To adopt a project or to donate to the Foundation, visit 
To find out more about Café Femenino visit

Cup for Education

Categories: 2012, JulyTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Contact Name: Karen Gordon

Location: Nicaragua
Email Address:
Phone Number: 800−458−2233

Project Description

On a trip with Women In Coffee in January 2003 I vis­ited Nicaragua. In the moun­tains of Jinotega, the largest cof­fee grow­ing region, we met with women and chil­dren of small farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties who were mem­bers of coop­er­a­tives. These are groups of farm­ers banded together work­ing to improve their cof­fee, lives, and eco­nomic futures. However, there was an impor­tant fac­tor miss­ing, the basic mate­ri­als nec­es­sary to attend school, along with the actual schools in many of these com­mu­ni­ties. If chil­dren are unable to attend schools in their com­mu­ni­ties, they travel to a nearby town or three hours (if they can afford to) to a larger city. There are no extras to go around, no such thing as sci­ence equip­ment or a library. There are no mate­ri­als to take home or note­books for homework.

It has been proven time after time that edu­ca­tion is the first thing to be sac­ri­ficed to low inter­na­tional cof­fee prices. Clearly com­mu­nity efforts to edu­cate the farm­ers of the future need our sup­port. How can they improve their cof­fees if they can­not read, write an agri­cul­tural report, study the weather or under­stand the fun­da­men­tals of the cof­fee trade? How can we ask peo­ple to diver­sify their farms, build strong coöper­a­tive orga­ni­za­tions, become self-sufficient, and weather low cof­fee prices with­out basic resources for education?

In one such com­mu­nity in Jinotega, Nicaragua, we saw the power of the coöper­a­tive. They for­merly held school in the back room of somebody’s small hut. With some extra money, they pur­chased a plot of land and started to build a school­house. This build­ing was halfway done when they ran out of money. Women In Coffee, upon see­ing this struc­ture, were truly inspired. Raising $500 among them­selves they con­tributed this money to “Los Alpes” to assist in com­plet­ing the struc­ture. When I returned home to New York, I entreated the need of these peo­ple to Coffee Holding Company and we spon­sored a teacher for this same farm. This extra effort allowed two addi­tional grades to get edu­cated within their own community.

However, it didn’t stop there. I began my plans to found Cup for Education. An orga­ni­za­tion to help the chil­dren of cof­fee cof­fee grow­ers around the world improve the edu­ca­tional con­di­tions and bring access to bet­ter edu­ca­tion directly to their com­mu­ni­ties. At the Specialty Coffee Association con­ven­tion in Boston in 2003, we brought more atten­tion to this issue at the first ever Women In Coffee break­fast. Women from the United States and Canada gath­ered with women of Central and South America to dis­cuss the obsta­cles pre­vent­ing progress in the cof­fee indus­try. A raf­fle held by Coffee Holding Company raised an addi­tional $800 for “Los Alpes” allow­ing them to build out­houses, chalk­boards, and the begin­nings of a small library.

Current Project:
Maestro En Casa – 2011 & 2012
One of our cur­rent projects is located in the province of Intibucá, Honduras. This is an area of extreme poverty and geo­graphic iso­la­tion that has his­tor­i­cally col­lab­o­rated to deny the rural indige­nous pop­u­la­tion of their fun­da­men­tal right to edu­ca­tion. El Maestro en Casa works to restore this right by pro­vid­ing pri­mary and sec­ondary edu­ca­tion to over 450 stu­dents scat­tered through­out iso­lated moun­tain vil­lages. Cup for Education has sup­ported these efforts by spon­sor­ing one of the four edu­ca­tors, who, trav­el­ing by motor­cy­cle, teaches classes in remote vil­lage stu­dent cen­ters as well as the Study Center in La Esperanza.

Additional Projects:
El Paraiso Computer Lab – Heuhuetenango, Guatemlaa 2008 – present
El Paraiso is a long time project that Cup for Education has been sup­port­ing since 2008. It began with the dona­tion of com­put­ers and soft­ware for after school skill build­ing and edu­ca­tion, and con­tin­ues to be a resource for the chil­dren of local cof­fee grow­ers. Art pro­grams are held over school vaca­tion, and addi­tional read­ing pro­grams as well for lev­els pre-school through 6th grade. El Paraiso has become a cen­ter for the community’s children.

St. Gabriel Kahata Primary School, Kenya 2011-present
Over the past 2 years, Cup for Education with the assis­tance of grants has been able to improve the con­di­tions at the St. Gabriel Primary School in Kenya. We have build new pit latrines, for a safer, and more san­i­tary learn­ing envi­ron­ment. This has encour­aged increased enroll­ment. We have also been able to expand the class­rooms, as well as build addi­tional class­rooms, and intro­duce inter­net. We have addi­tional project requests as the need is great, but the fund­ing limited.

A Schoolhouse that par­tic­i­pates in Maestro in Casa in Honduras

Class in the com­mu­nity of San Antonio, Honduras

Class for the Bachillerato (10 & 11th grades)

How Can I Help?

Cup for Education uti­lizes your dona­tions to assist in pro­vid­ing chil­dren in rural Central and Latin America, and Africa with the school sup­plies they need to cre­ate a bet­ter future for them­selves. To learn more about our spe­cific projects or to make a dona­tion, please visit our web­site at

Coffee Lifeline Project

Categories: 2012, JulyTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Contact Name: Peter Kettler

Location: Various Coffee Growing Countries
Email Address:
Phone Number: 608−334−9173

Project Description

The Coffee Lifeline project is a radio com­mu­ni­ca­tions ini­tia­tive that pro­vides cof­fee farm­ers with access to vital infor­ma­tion that can have a sig­nif­i­cant and pos­i­tive impact in the lives of their fam­i­lies as well as within the com­mu­ni­ties in which they live.

Coffee Lifeline pro­vides access to news and infor­ma­tional pro­gram­ming through the use of unique, patented crank and solar-panel radios, pro­vid­ing a reli­able, sus­tain­able link to the world at large. Through a unique dis­tri­b­u­tion process, these radios come to be seen as com­mu­nity prop­erty, a tool to be used for the com­mon good as opposed to pri­vate gain or com­pet­i­tive advantage.

Since 2005 Coffee Lifeline, in part­ner­ship with the USAID-funded SPREAD project and Radio Salus, a community-based radio sta­tion affil­i­ated with the National University of Rwanda, have pro­duced a series of 30 minute weekly broad­casts called Imbere Heza, or “Bright Future”. Funding for these broad­casts has been gen­er­ously pro­vided by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Each pro­gram cov­ers a vari­ety of top­ics, includ­ing agron­omy prac­tices, coöper­a­tive devel­op­ment and sus­tain­abil­ity, envi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship, early child­hood and mater­nal health, nutri­tion, HIV/AIDS edu­ca­tion, fam­ily plan­ning and com­mod­ity mar­ket information.

The Coffee Lifeline project was founded upon the belief that access to infor­ma­tion can be one of the most pow­er­ful aspects of any devel­op­ment ini­tia­tive. This is espe­cially true in coffee-producing areas that often rely on iso­lated groups of peo­ple work­ing together toward a com­mon goal, whether it be qual­ity improve­ment, health ini­tia­tives, edu­ca­tion, food secu­rity, envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion or coöper­a­tive devel­op­ment. Access to accu­rate, reli­able and con­sis­tent sources of infor­ma­tion is key to the suc­cess of any project. In recog­ni­tion of our efforts, the Specialty Coffee Association of America awarded Coffee Lifeline its annual Sustainability Award in 2010.

With an expected expan­sion of its activ­i­ties into Kenya and Tanzania later this year, the Coffee Lifeline project will cre­ate an oppor­tu­nity for farm­ers, exporters, coffee-centered NGO’s as well as the com­mu­nity radio sec­tor itself to share infor­ma­tion and col­lab­o­rate on a wide range of issues fac­ing the region today.

Who Benefits From This Project?

Currently, every stake­holder in the Rwandan cof­fee sec­tor ben­e­fits from the Coffee Lifeline project. Our focus on cof­fee qual­ity, coöper­a­tive devel­op­ment as well as a wide vari­ety of issues that affect qual­ity of life has resulted in the Coffee Lifeline broad­casts becom­ing viewed as the respected voice of Rwanda’s cof­fee farm­ing community.

With a pro­jected expan­sion into neigh­bor­ing Tanzania and Kenya, Coffee Lifeline will effec­tively cre­ate the world’s first cof­fee radio net­work, offer­ing unique oppor­tu­ni­ties for infor­ma­tion shar­ing and capac­ity build­ing among the var­i­ous farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties, devel­op­ment orga­ni­za­tions, gov­ern­ment agen­cies and com­mu­nity radio sta­tions par­tic­i­pat­ing in the project.

The cof­fee com­mu­nity of East Africa faces many of the same chal­lenges as most of the world’s cof­fee pro­duc­ing regions – increased pop­u­la­tion, com­pe­ti­tion for nat­ural resources, cli­mate change, food secu­rity, health care and edu­ca­tion. Access to reli­able, con­sis­tent infor­ma­tion can help local com­mu­ni­ties decide on which strate­gies might best suit their indi­vid­ual needs. Radio is everywhere.

How Can I Help?

The Coffee Lifeline project can uti­lize your dona­tions to help increase the range of our broad­casts and pro­vide coop­er­a­tives with addi­tional radios to make sure that the infor­ma­tion is shared with even their most remote members.

Please help us send a strong sig­nal to today’s cof­fee farmers!

I found my “Roots” to coffee in Africa

Categories: 2012, MarchTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

This is not a story of an epic jour­ney like Alex Haley’s to find his ances­try, but I did dis­cover a pretty cool tie to my present sit­u­a­tion in the cof­fee world and to a shrubby lit­tle cof­fee plant in Kenya.

If you were to really do the in-depth research, like Mr. Haley did in his book, ‘Roots’, the cof­fee per­son would find them­selves embrac­ing their ances­try in Ethiopia where cof­fee began. That is assum­ing of course your fam­ily his­tory included the Arabica ances­try. If you were of the Robusta lin­eage, your genealog­i­cal jour­ney would end in Uganda. My rev­e­la­tion only dates back about one gen­er­a­tion and lands me in a lit­tle town called Ruiru about an hour out­side of Nairobi, Kenya.

In the SPECIALTY cof­fee fam­ily, specif­i­cally the Coffee Quality Institute clan, there is a key fig­ure in the fam­ily. Let me intro­duce you to Ruiru 11. This scrubby lit­tle guy is about 4 feet tall. Don’t let its small size fool you. It was built to be resistent to CBD (cof­fee berry dis­ease), which is a big prob­lem for Kenya Coffee Farmers. It is the cre­ation of the Coffee Research Fondation located in Ruiru. The prob­lem was the mixed reviews it was get­ting for cup qual­ity. It was at this moment that MY roots in cof­fee begin.

The Coffee Reasearch Foundation needed some objec­tive help to define the fla­vor char­ac­ter­is­tics of Kenyan Coffee so they could com­pare the Ruiru 11 to those norms. Then they could say once and for all if the taste char­ac­ter­is­tics were bet­ter / same / worse.

They found an upstart orga­ni­za­tion, a com­mit­tee really, under the SCAA called the Specialty Coffee Institute. It was co-founded by Ted Lingle who was then the Executive Director of SCAA. The one employee they had, Joseph Rivera, was charged with doing research for the group. He was put on this project as well.

Joseph used sev­eral cof­fees from Kenya. This included a lot that just gar­nered a supe­rior price at auc­tion, some SL28 and Ruiru11. The goal was to do an analy­sis of the organic acid makeup of this cof­fee and to try and com­pare it to other cof­fees. Thereby an under­stand­ing of the fla­vor dif­fer­ences in the cof­fee cre­ated by the var­i­ous organic acids might be achieved. This research became one of the cor­ner­stones to under­stand­ing qual­ity in cof­fee and led to addi­tional research as to how to develop cer­tain acids in coffee.

Some Science & Coffee

Here are some things that we know as a result of the research and sub­se­quent stud­ies. The acids that cre­ated the biggest pos­i­tive changes in the Kenyan cof­fee were Phosphoric and Malic acids. Let’s look at each one, how they are cre­ated, and there effect on cof­fee flavor.

Malic Acid is the “apple acid” as it can con­tribute to the per­cep­tion of green apple tart­ness and sweet­ness in the fla­vor of cof­fee. It is pro­duced when the cof­fee matures more slowly. Higher alti­tudes and shady con­di­tions will allow a cof­fee to mature at a reduced pace due to lower tem­per­a­tures. If the cof­fee has time to ripen slowly, the acidic devel­op­ment is greatly enhanced as the ‘cit­ric acid cycle’ is allowed to con­tinue and the plant will pro­duce more acids.

Phosphoric acid is devel­oped when cof­fee absorbs phos­phates in the soil. These can be nat­u­rally occur­ring or added to the soil through fer­til­iz­ers. The most notable fea­ture of phos­phoric acid is that is does not have a taste per se, but it adds to the bright­ness or the per­cep­tion of acid­ity in the taste. Phosphates also make the bub­bles in sodas. This adds to the ‘excite­ment’ of the soda but does not affect the fla­vor. (If you let a soda go flat, it still tastes the same, but its taste is bor­ing or stale.) The inter­est­ing thing about these two acids is that they each have very small amounts in cof­fee com­pared to other acids. They are the small­est acids hav­ing the best impact on flavor.

So why was the Kenyan Coffee so dif­fer­ent? The study con­cluded that the Kenyan cof­fees had more phoshoric and malic acid than a washed Colombian used in the study. You can imag­ine that this had a dra­matic impact on the cof­fee. WARNING: It would be fool­ish to assume that ALL Kenyan cof­fees have this trait any­more than you can say that ALL Indonesians have lower body. Some gen­er­al­iza­tions are help­ful but it all comes down to the indi­vid­ual lots. As we just demon­strated, dif­fer­ent grow­ing con­di­tions and dif­fer­ent soil make up can cause a cof­fee to have a dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent pro­file than other cof­fees of the same coun­try. Joseph Rivera sum­ma­rized, “The study really shed the light on the role of acids and how they inter­act to effect cof­fee fla­vor. It’s amaz­ing how rel­a­tively small changes in cof­fee brew com­po­si­tions can bring about entirely new fla­vor pro­files, even within the same coffee.”

So how does this relate to MY cof­fee roots? Rivera shared this with me, “I think the study played a huge role in ini­tially bring­ing about a greater level of aware­ness to the whole issue of cof­fee chem­istry. Since then, we have seen the devel­op­ment of the Q-Program, sen­sory tests, as well as sev­eral tools in an effort to objec­tively assess cof­fee qual­ity. Prior to this, I think the indus­try was more of an ‘art’ with lit­tle to any ‘science’.”

Specialty Coffee Institute soon became CQI. CQI had a new mis­sion: The Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) is a non­profit orga­ni­za­tion work­ing inter­na­tion­ally to improve the qual­ity of cof­fee and the lives of the peo­ple who pro­duce it. The Q-Coffee sys­tem, the Q-Grader course, and the sci­ence that sup­ports it man­i­fested from this orig­i­nal research.

I became a Q-Grader instruc­tor in 2010 and I now travel the world shar­ing this infor­ma­tion. And only coin­ci­dently I ended up teach­ing at the Coffee Research Foundation in Ruiru, Kenya, the very lab in which Ruiru 11 was cre­ated. I was back to my cof­fee roots.

I would like to per­son­ally thank the Coffee Research Foundation and Coffee Quality Institute for their research and desire to improve qual­ity in the sup­ply chain. Because of them, I get to do what I do! Oh and just to beat the ‘Roots’ theme to death: “I FOUND you! Ruiru11 I FOUND you.”

AZ">Roaster Profile: Echo Coffee in Scottsdale, AZ

Categories: 2011, AugustTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Once again we are on the hunt to explore one the best cof­fee shop/roasteries in the coun­try and today vamos a Echo Coffee in Scottsdale, Arizona. It is really hot here in Scottsdale, so I am going to enjoy my iced latte while talk­ing to Echo’s proud and pas­sion­ate owner Steve Belt.

V. Hi Steve! The weather seems to be bru­tal to retail busi­nesses here. How are you get­ting by?

B. Well, we have expected the busi­ness to slow down dur­ing sum­mer times, so we are expe­ri­enc­ing some insta­bil­ity with the cus­tomer flow from time to time, but over­all we are just fine.

V. I know you have been in cof­fee busi­ness about two years now? Could you tell us how and why you changed your pro­fes­sional direction?

B. The cri­sis hit, and even though I was one of the country’s top prop­erty man­agers, it became too stress­ful to work with land­lords for obvi­ous rea­sons. Around that time, I saw some­one giv­ing a lec­ture about cof­fee at Ignite Phoenix (TED’s con­fer­ence ana­logue), and this was when I uncov­ered my hid­den pas­sion for cof­fee. The oppor­tu­nity came along to open up my own cof­fee shop/ roas­t­erie, and I was quick to react. Now I am a very happy busi­ness owner.

V. Echo’s slo­gan reads “Fresh.Local.Organic.” How are you keep­ing it fresh, local and organic?

B. A cou­ple of things. First of all, as you have already noticed we roast all our cof­fee in-house, using our 3 kilo Diedrich IR-3 roaster. As far as the choice of cof­fee, unlike many other cof­fee shops out there, we never try to save, and so we buy only the best qual­ity beans avail­able from coun­tries like Brazil, Kenya and El Salvador. Also, we only use organic milk, and our cus­tomers are really excited about that. By the way, I have found that organic milk isn’t just a health­ier choice, but it also pro­duces bet­ter micro­foam than does non-organic. At lastly, we have set up com­mer­cial SpectraPure reverse osmo­sis water sys­tem to pro­vide a great tast­ing and safe water for all our busi­ness needs.

V. The place seems to be big­ger than a reg­u­lar cof­fee shop, is it one of your busi­ness strategies?

B. You know, yes, we have quite a big place – around 1,550 square feet, and this really helps us to accom­mo­date every­one with lots of seat­ing arrange­ments avail­able, includ­ing extra-cushioned couches. In addi­tion, we pro­vide free WI-FI (pow­ered by high speed T3 ded­i­cated inter­net con­nec­tion, a rare future for most small cof­fee busi­nesses, which get by with T1 or DSL), and 10 power out– lets for lap­tops and cell phones. Some cus­tomers spend more than ten hours in a row study­ing, or read­ing in our shop, and they are really thank­ful for our accom­mo­dat­ing atmosphere.

V. On your blog at, there was a post titled “Music to My Ears” that I found really intrigu­ing. Could you please explain to our read­ers the true sig­nif­i­cance of the cookie policy?

B. (Smiles) yes, indeed. It is like music to my ears when the cus­tomer answers “Yes” for the magic ques­tion “For here?” And it is not just a happy time for me; cus­tomer would enjoy addi– tional ben­e­fits when con­sum­ing inside, such as beau­ti­ful porce­lain cup ware, and most impor­tant of all – our free bonus, 100% organic short­bread cookie. I have imple­mented the cookie pol­icy
in order to limit post-consumer waste, which amounts to con­sid­er­able amounts con­sid­er­ing how many paper cups are used by reg­u­lar cof­fee shop, and now the cookie became the inte­gral part of our cus­tomer experience.

V. By the way con­cern­ing the orders to go,
I have noticed that you are using Planet Plus biodegrad­able cups for this pur­pose, how are they work­ing out for you?

B. They have been awe­some for us. We have used other so called “Green” paper cups before, but they didn’t really work: I tested them in my own com­post for years. However, the Planet Plus are com­postable in a land fill. They use a sugar based coat­ing, rather than a waxed based coat­ing to help enable that.

There is one more thing that I wanted to add. I think it is impor­tant to give back to the com­mu­nity, so some­times in the next cou­ple of months we will sell a whole bunch of cof­fee in sup­port of can­cer treat­ment, and I encour­age other cof­fee shops to do so as well.

Echo Coffee
2902 N 68th St, #135
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
(480) 422‑4081