Last November 2015, Coffee for Peace received an award initiated by IIX and UNDP on PeaceBuilding. Coffee for Peace was chosen for the Philippines as a Social Enterprise with Peace Impact.
This month, Impact Investment Exchange Asia (IIX Asia) from Singapore conducted the impact assessment for Coffee For Peace in terms of inclusive development in the communities where our farming partners live. We are grateful to Jia Ling Lim, Macey Tan, and Vivienne Zerrudo of Shujog for their help in this impact assessment.
Len Rempel, our partner from East Zorra, Ontario is also here to visit us. So we travelled with the impact assessment team in Bukidnon for two days.
It is very encouraging to see the result of this assessment. Not only on profit but also on the lives of people, the environment, and the peace aspect.
Joji wanted to find out what Coffee for Peace’s positive influence has been so far, and how to scale their impact moving forward.
We travelled with Joji up to Mount Apo, the tallest mountain in the Philippines overlooking the island of Mindanao, which has been plagued by multiple conflicts for decades. The conflict in Mindanao has been difficult to resolve at the national level, and has been a major reason for impeding economic development in the region, amidst multiple other issues.
During the decades of conflict, the densely forested hills of Mount Apo, which are supposed to be protected under national park status, were heavily deforested by large logging and mining companies. Without its natural forest cover, the hills’ topsoil was lost to erosion and rivers built up with silt, while landslides and flooding got worse, claiming more lives.
“The only way that we see could resolve the environmental and economic problems, is by empowering the communities to learn how to deal with conflict peacefully. And at the same time, providing a way of livelihood, which is coffee. I have a market for coffee, and a lot of people are looking for coffee!” Joji chuckles as she takes another gulp from her coffee cup.
Coffee for Peace envisions ecological recovery through coffee farming. The Arabica coffee thrives in elevated highlands and more importantly, grows best in shaded areas, which incentivizes the farmers to plant native forest trees. Farmers can continue to grow vegetables and coffee around reforested areas, while the growing trees would help to sustain the very soil and water needed to sustain agriculture, livelihoods and life itself for generations to come. Coffee for Peace advocates for this during their coffee training sessions with the local farmers.
“It would protect the environment, it would provide income,” Joji said simply.
While at the village, we spoke with Nalgene Libres, the daughter-in-law of a coffee farm owner and a member of the local Bagobo tribe.
“Coffee is very important because it is the key source of income to us, next to vegetable farming,” Nalgene told us in a matter-of-fact manner. Nalgene is 27 years old, bright and bubbly and her laughter can be heard two houses down the village road.
“With the extra income, we can sustain the daily needs for school-going children. We can have savings to use for emergencies, such as when we are sick. It helps a lot in our family!” she added.
What would happen if you didn’t farm and sell coffee? I had to ask. She looked at me for a second, tensing up as she thought about the possibility.
“If there is no coffee? The people around here will just depend on vegetable crops! It is very difficult. We will need to take on credit to buy seeds, and if the vegetables don’t grow, all our efforts and money will go to waste. And we will need to take more loans – it’s a vicious cycle.”