Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Word on JustHaiti's Model From Evan

Hey everyone! It’s Evan. For this blog post, we wanted to catch all of our readers up on JustHaiti’s mission and purpose. JustHaiti is a non-profit, fair trade coffee company that partners with coffee cooperatives in Haiti. JustHaiti buys the coffee in bulk for about 4.25 a pound, 3x as high as for-profit speculators might buy it for. On average, they typical coffee grower will sell about 100 pounds of coffee to JustHaiti: rendering them about $425. To a reader in the United States this may seem meager, but in perhaps the most oppressed and marginalized country in the Western hemisphere, the jump from $140~ a year to $425 a year is tremendous. It’s the difference that allows them to pay for their children’s education, put food on their table, pay for healthcare, and save for the future. In their partnership with the cooperatives, JustHaiti not only buys the growers’ coffee at a ‘just’ price, but they also offer 0% interest loans for equipment, scholarships for agronomics and business students, and consult the growers on methods of maximizing their coffee production and keeping their plants healthy.

Now, you might have yourself thinking – it’s great that they get paid more, but doesn’t that mean JustHaiti’s coffee is going to be that much more expensive than your typical bag of coffee at the grocery store? In fact, a pound of coffee from JustHaiti only costs 12 dollars – very comparable to Starbucks, Peet’s, or any other gourmet brand. And honestly, it tastes a lot better. I like to think I’m a bit of a coffee snob myself (to build my credentials: I take my coffee black, and I own a French press and an espresso machine.) And I don’t think I’ve ever tasted better coffee than what I had in Fon Tor Tu. It was nutty and smooth, with no bitter after taste.

JustHaiit keeps its prices down by consolidating the supply chain of the coffee itself (thus requiring less out-of-country workers to be paid) and, obviously, by being a non-profit. The growers not only produce the cherries that create the coffee, but they also process the beans through wet or dry processes. In doing this work, they add more value to the coffee without the need for others to contribute to the supply chain.

As a model of development, JustHaiti breaks with the traditional forms of aid and intervention. Often, people from developed countries travel to developing states and offer charitable forms of aid: they build schools, give food and clothes, and maybe even construct a water sanitization facility. These are great deeds, with great and selfless intentions. However, somehow these forms of ‘giving’ often do little to sustainably develop local communities. To be sure, they help solve short-term needs: they are quite literally feeding the hungry, and giving shelter to the homeless. But, simply ‘giving’ to somebody in need does not solve the reasons for their hunger, the homelessness, their lack of education, their lack to access to healthcare, or their lack of access safe to water. For too long, we have satiated our moral impulses with the kinds of projects that only address symptoms, and not root causes.

But that’s the beauty of JustHaiti: they address root causes by empowering people to lift themselves out of poverty. The coffee growers’ fair wages allow them to reinvest in themselves and their families. Offering loans – instead of giving – makes the cooperatives make collective decisions about what is best for them and the community. In Fon Tor Tue, we saw how KDB was not only a group of coffee growers, but a community organization that strengthens civil society. Not only are they concerned about coffee, but they look out for one another – after the earthquake, they used funds to help out the coffee growers that were effected most by the damage. By empowering KDB, JustHaiti is empowering the growers and their community to empower themselves.

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