A group of employees from the Starbucks Coffee Company in the US made a $1,400 grant through Kahawatu Burundi asbl, to support a female-led cooperative producing coffee in the North of Burundi. “I have been an employee with Starbucks for almost 22 years and when I learned about the trading company and the fact that it was run by women, I was inspired. I love coffee and I feel very blessed to work for such a wonderful organization and I saw an opportunity to say thank you,” explains Stacy Elwell-Chalmers, regional director of the Starbucks Coffee Company. Together with other employees, Stacy organized a fundraiser that was held in Denver in March 2015.
With the money raised during the fundraiser, the cooperative was able to purchase food crop seeds that cover the difficult time in between the harvest periods of coffee production. Marie Chantal NCAHORURI, manager of the cooperative said that the sowing period is sometimes very difficult for those farmers who cannot afford to buy seeds. Especially as there are also some members of the Batwa community among those 200 mainly female coffee producers. For them, their births are unrecorded and so with no legal status they have no rights to public amenities such as access to land or health services.
The day of the distribution, the members of the cooperative « Gashikanwa speciality coffee » came together to receive seeds for their farms. The quantity given to each of the 200 members was decided upon the size of their land dedicated to the different food crops. In total, the following inputs have been donated: 750 kg of beans, 600 kg of potatoes, 250 kg of groundnuts, as well as 4 bags of fertilizer.
Kahawatu started working with the « Gashikanwa speciality coffee » in 2013 and has since then been providing trainings in good agricultural practices as well as financial literacy, workshops on gender equality; and furthermore, supports the cooperative with new planting material as well as agricultural inputs and equipment. In order to facilitate the fundraiser activity, Kahawatu recorded some footage of the cooperative that was sent to Starbucks. “I will never forget the video ofMarie Chantal talking about how she organized the cooperative and how she was not simply focused on coffee, but what coffee could do to improve the lives of the people in her community,” comments Stacy. “I see my role very similarly, as does our company, we are in the people business serving coffee. How do we, every day, work to improve the lives of others.”
The cooperative was very grateful for the donation from Starbucks that embodies the concerns of the communities living around the cooperatives’ coffee washing station. In order to monetize this support, each beneficiary will reimburse an amount equivalent to the seeds received from her/his first harvest. Those seeds will then be redistributed to other coffee farmers.