In December of 2011, Bill Fishbein, of The Coffee Trust, and Carlos Murillo, of Expocert, sat in a dingy cafe in in San Gaspar Chajul, in the Ixil region of Guatemala. They were remembering the many adventures they had together expanding development projects throughout Central America. They had recently started a comprehensive program in Guatemala promoting education, health care, food security, and economic development in the war-torn Ixil region, one of the most impoverished regions at origin. Having already achieved a fair amount of success in what was one of the most difficult places to work at origin, the thought of expansion rose to the surface again.
Bill, often accused of being the tortoise, not the hare, suggested, “If we can do this here, we can do this anywhere.” Carlos, who rarely is confused with the tortoise, replied, “I know just the place, Western Honduras.” He proceeded to describe a group of forward thinking producers who he thought would be excellent partners. The following spring, Carlos arranged a meeting at the SCAA conference in Portland, and the seedling of an idea began to take root. The Coffee Trust made a visit to western Honduras the following July, to meet an extraordinary group of people.
Subsequently, a private foundation was established, Fundacion Amigos del Cafe. The principles behind the foundation were three fair trade, organic coffee cooperatives (Cafe Capucas, Asocicacion Aruco, and Cocafelol); a forward-thinking beneficio/exporter (Beneficio Santa Rosa); and a regional bank (Banco Occidente), all of whom made significant financial contributions to the foundation to begin pilot projects in the area. The Coffee Trust joined the board to supervise the development projects. Carlos joined shortly thereafter.
Since then, the foundation has assembled a strong group of professionals to lead the organization. Peter Rodriguez, formerly the highly respected general manager of Honduran Quality Coffee leads the team. Aida Chavez heads up programs and Delmi Rodriguez is the administrator.
Two pilot projects are already underway, an efficient, ventilated stoves project along with a university scholarship program. The university scholarship project is the first capillary of an education project that will include middle school scholarships, high school scholarships, and a leadership-training component. A savings and micro-credit project, building upon the leadership of a group of women coffee roasters from Cocafelol, will follow adding an economic development component to Fundacion Amigos del Café’s sustainability effort. Funds have already been raised to support the development of two health care clinics in the region, which will be the base of a multi-faceted health care program. A food security project will follow, completing the framework for the expansion of The Coffee Trust comprehensive development model that supports education, health care, economic development, and food security.
Capacity Building, the fundamental building block of The Coffee Trust sustainability component, will begin to be implemented this summer focusing on organizational development, sustainable financing, and democratic decision-making. The Coffee Trust Capacity Building component will ensure that Fundacion Amigos del Café will develop into an efficient, effective, financially self-sufficient organization, sensitive to the priorities, values, and culture of each community served. Capacity Building generally begins with a SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It is then followed by long-term strategic planning and shorter term business planning. Hierarchy of leadership exercises help to determine roles and responsibilities. Sustainable financing and democratic decision-making ensure the longevity of the program and that it remains sensitive to the needs of the communities served.
Funding for the project has been jump-started with a significant contribution from Beneficio Santa Rosa. A supply-chain funding strategy is being pursued for the long-term that will offer importers, brokers, roasters, wholesalers, retailers, and customers of coffee from the region. The opportunity to support a variety of development projects at the origin of their supply chain. Designated contributions to Fundacion Amigos del Café may be made through The Coffee Trust, 2019 Galisteo Street, Suite H-1 in Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505 a 501(c)3 non profit organization. All contribution are tax deductible as provided by law.
It appears as if the tortoise and the hare are up to their old tricks again. But, this time the winners will be the farming communities is western Honduras.
Contact Name: Bill Fishbein
Web Site: www.thecoffeetrust.org
Location: Western Honduras
Email Address: email@example.com
Phone Number: 505.670.9783