As you probably know, the word ‘Buna’ refers to coffee in Ethiopia. But while the birthplace of coffee is appreciated globally for it’s broad variety of unique flavor profiles, the big majority of Ethiopian coffee farmers and their community can’t sustain their lives. Let alone the desired economical, social and ecological developments.
Farmers not having an equal chance to earn a living wage due to low prices, low yields, regional conflicts or negative climate effects. Or the majority of children dropping out from schools at the age of 7, by the lack of budget and opportunities on quality education. Resulting in under developed communities. Health issues by the lack of infrastructure, awareness and health institutes, leading to disabilities, isolation and discrimination. And young adults seeking for an opportunity on alternative jobs, but with no companies investing in their rural communities attracted to enter the sector of drugs and prostitution.
Just a grab of on-going causes interacting with each other, resulting in increasing concerns in coffee communities. And far beyond.
A complex system
But why does this happen- in a coffee country so highly appreciated by the global coffee consumers? As loyal inhabitants of the coffee community we’re convinced the lack of equal opportunities is not caused by one single factor, such as ‘only the lack of fair wages’.
Factors as fair wages, decent jobs, the presence of entrepreneurs, leadership, climate change, infrastructure and institutions. All play part and interact with each other in a complex system that either limits or enables developments in coffee communities. So, unfortunately there are also not short cuts in solving these problems.
It all starts with a vision
As mentioned, to turn a limiting complex system into a system that creates and enables opportunities by itself, that’s rocket science. But it is not impossible. It all starts with a vision, where we believe that even the poorest, most vulnerable coffee community has the potential to develop in to a Bette Buna: A place that revolves around growing, processing, trading and consuming coffee. But above all symbolizes a home for every coffee community member. A ‘home’ that strives and creates equal opportunities for development by them selves.
Embracing the future
A good vision is nice, but nothing more than that without the presence of local front running entrepreneurial leaders, transforming this long term vision in to a movement. These leaders take financial and social risks, by investing in the long term and transparently sharing their information and collaborating with all stakeholders. Without insurances.
Bette Buna is one of these local front runners. With an active presence in all coffee communities where we produce we take our role as part of the ‘coffee system’ very serious.
We are not our best intentions, we are what we do.
To turn a limiting system in to an enabling system for development equal opportunities are demanded. Keep talking about it is important, but doesn’t make sense if we don’t act as well.
Together with our coffee communities we designed a 3-layer approach. Every coffee community has its own specific needs, that we address and group under these three layers. By purchasing Bette Buna coffee you directly invest in these three broad themes.
While there is no universally agreed definition of a living wage as a concept and no universally accepted monetary amount that defines such term, a lack of consensus is no excuse for inaction.
Importantly, there is broad consensus around what constitutes a living wage — it is a wage that enables workers and their families to meet their basic needs.
What we do
Every coffee season we review critically with our employee representatives, team leaders and local community leaders the wages that we pay for our all of our seasonal workers, employees and external suppliers.
Together we state the wages for that year. In addition we provide accessible trainings in financial skills and create saving systems for our supplying small holder farmers.
One of the important themes to help coffee communities in creating equal opportunities is to work together in improving quality and yields at coffee farms.
While global warming is a day-to-day threat at one side and lack of agronomic skills and market knowledge at the other side, coffee yields and quality are not that easily improved.
We believe sharing ‘old’ knowledge with ‘new’ knowledge is key in creating sustainable development.
What we doWe offer our own farms, stations and agronomists as an educational venue for the whole local coffee community. We show farming practices that focus on maintaining soil health and the amazing benefits that brings to quality and yields. And we teach which harvesting techniques will result in higher qualities.
In addition we invested in four coffee breeding nurseries. Every year we supply the community with resilient coffee varieties that increase their yields and quality.
A coffee community is like an ecosystem. Every member in particular region is -whether they like it or not- a part of that system and interacts with each other. Is dependent on each other.
That includes the older children of coffee farmers, who actually are not much interested in taking over a farm that is barely able to sustain life. But alternative jobs and companies are hard to find in such rural areas. What happens is that many youth leave the coffee community, seeking for a job in the capital city which -except the single case- fails. What comes next is a continuous negative loop of poverty that influences the whole community.
What we doWe see potential in these youth in coffee communities. They are strong, young and motivated to change their life. If they manage to turn the negative loops of poverty into a positive one, a catalyst effect will enter and local economical development will start.
And that’s what we do. We help these youth to create positive loops. We train and facilitate young talented entrepreneurs in launching their own business idea. On their own turn they will create alternative jobs in the community again as well. Directly, or indirectly with positive effects on the development of coffee communities.