Most of the coffee growing regions of the world exist within what is known as the Coffee Belt, a stretch of about 25 degrees north and south of the Equator. Some of the oldest civilizations in the world rest within this belt; some of the most politically volatile, as well. You may have wondered how or even why we offer coffee selections from some of these "war-torn" countries. The answer is simple: farmers.
Where governments fail to insulate their people from the economic strife and corruption that comes with war and political unrest, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) step in to help in various ways. Some NGOs you may have heard of are UNICEF, our very own charity of choice, Food 4 Farmers, Fair Trade Certified, and USAID, United States Agency for International Development. There are thousands more of these organizations, of course, but you get the point.
One such NGO is Mandalay Coffee Group (MCG). MCG was established in 2014 in Myanmar (Burma), providing a much needed bridge between farmers, coffee bean processors, and importers. Keeping the focus on helping Myanmar farmers compete in the global coffee industry, MCG has maintained neutral political affiliation.
In an interview with one of our trusted coffee suppliers, MCG board representatives had this to say:
"Regarding our company in particular, MCG received a significant grant through USAID for the establishment of our dry mill in 2015, and buyers should find some comfort in knowing that the vetting process recipients undergo is very thorough to ensure that corrupt individuals are not involved.
Despite the fact that many of our directors and shareholders have the capacity to leave Myanmar to seek a more comfortable life and less burdensome business climate, they have stayed in large part because they want to contribute to the positive future that lies before Myanmar.
Reform in this country has been slow and often painful, but MCG believes that direct contacts between foreign buyers and local producers can play a powerful role in Myanmar’s growth and development. We are proud to be part of facilitating those connections, and we intend to continue making our best efforts for producers and buyers who share our commitment to coffee quality and long-term relationships."
If you'd like to experience some of the efforts of MCG for yourself, we offer award winning Myanmar Green Land Estate LTD, with its rich milk chocolate and walnut notes and very low acidity. You can read more about this coffee in this blog post.
While MCG is local to Myanmar, USAID is a massive NGO that helps communities and whole countries on many different fronts: agriculture and food security, human rights, economic growth and trade, education, and so much more. According to their website, USAID has invested heavily in helping the people of Yemen. Together with Yemen's Social Fund for Development (SFD), USAID has implemented training programs in efforts to improve livelihoods of Yemenis. Having extensive cultural ties to coffee, the Yemeni coffee industry is getting some much needed attention. Farmers, under the umbrella of SFD and USAID, are receiving "training and tools to increase their yields and access international markets, while also helping them adapt to constraints created by the conflict and promote and use renewable energy."
For a closer look at what it takes to import Yemeni coffee, check out this video from CBS Sunday Morning:
We offer a glimpse into coffee history with our Yemen Mocca Haimi LTD. One of our most popular dry processed coffees, this coffee is truly a delicious departure from your normal go-to coffee. You can read more about it here.
We, at Addison Coffee Roasters, want to celebrate our passion for all things coffee. NGOs help us do that. When we can, we deal directly with coffee farmers, or at least try to know their names by investigating the farmers' stories. When that's not an option, as in the case of coffee farm co-ops, we try to ensure that our coffee is sustainably and ethically sourced, relying on NGOs to do the leg work. So if someone asks you how you can support a country in conflict by purchasing their coffee, tell them you're helping to educate children and train the parents how to improve their yields; tell them you're helping mothers and fathers feed their families. We are not interested in the political agendas of governing bodies. We are, however, interested in supporting the "little guy," being that we, too, in many respects, are the "little guy."