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Seeds is an acronym that stands for Sustaining Environmental and Educational Development at Source. Our Seeds program was created to structure and define Counter Culture's monetary contributions to projects that are not coffee-quality-specific but still benefit our coffee-producing partners and their communities. To date, we have contributed a total of $24,963 to projects in 6 countries. We'd like to catch you up on the projects we have funded over the last couple of years through our Seeds program with an eye toward more regular updates of ongoing projects.
 
Our Seventh Project: Holiday Blend 2011
Kayanza, Burundi
 
The Buziraguhindwa school currently serves approximately 2,000 students.
Some of our Seeds projects are funded by a special coffee created each year at the holidays from which a dollar of each pound sold goes toward a project on the ground at origin. As such, it seems serendipitous that this week's Seeds update finds us reporting on projects funded by last year's holiday blend. Last year, funds collected from sales of our holiday blend focused on supporting educational initiatives and allowed us to donate to the expansion of a school near the Buziraguhindwa washing station. The Buziraguhindwa school currently serves approximately 2,000 students. Tim Hill, our coffee buyer who focuses on Burundi, has been invited to a ceremony in the year ahead to inaugurate the new school structure. A portion of the funds also went to the construction of a school near the Idido washing station.
 
The donation from our 2012 Holiday Blend will again be dedicated to an educational initiative and will be aimed at supporting the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmer's Cooperative Union, the cooperative from which the coffee in this blend is derived. Our hope is to fund a two-day workshop on organic agriculture and composting for between 50 and 100 coffee growers, agronomists, and cooperative representatives. Thank you in advance for the support of this coffee and, come late spring, we will be reporting back on the next installment of holiday blend origin projects.
 
Happiest of holidays to you and yours!
 
'Til next week,
Hannah
 
POSTED IN: Seeds
Seeds is an acronym that stands for Sustaining Environmental and Educational Development at Source. Our Seeds program was created to structure and define Counter Culture's monetary contributions to projects that are not coffee-quality-specific but still benefit our coffee-producing partners and their communities. To date, we have contributed a total of $24,963 to projects in 6 countries. We'd like to catch you up on the projects we have funded over the last couple of years through our Seeds program with an eye toward more regular updates of ongoing projects.
 
Our Sixth Project: Food Security and Cooperative Members
Fabretto Children's Foundation & Cinco de Junio Cooperative
Madriz, Nicaragua
 
A family in Madriz, Nicaragua, participating in Fabretto Children's Foundation Food Security and Nutrition program.
We learned about the Fabretto Children's Foundation – a non-governmental organization that works closely with farmers and specifically with members of the Cinco de Junio Cooperative – when Coffee Buyer and Sustainability Manager Kim Elena Ionescu began visiting the region in 2009. Fabretto is a registered nonprofit organization that works to provide quality education, health and nutrition, and community development programs for more than 11,000 students in Nicaragua. Their choice to work in coffee growing communities stems from their desire to support the work of improving children's education and to diversify economic activities in order to break the cycles of chronic poverty.
 
Fabretto sought out our collaboration in the spring of 2012 in order to support their Food Security and Nutrition program. This program creates opportunities for student groups and small farmers to produce fresh fruits and vegetables that can be incorporated into Fabretto's school lunch program. The students and farmers also learn skills to sell part of their production to generate cash income.
 
In an effort to improve conditions of food security in the rural communities of Las Sabanas and San José de Cusmapa, Fabretto has begun to organize groups of small growers, many of whom are also coffee growers, who diversify their farms to grow crops such as tomatoes, onions, peppers, potatoes, carrots, bananas, and other indigenous fruits and vegetables.
 
So far, the Seeds funds have helped provide students and farmers with practical skills in rural development and sustainable agriculture. Fabretto has injected needed resources into the productive projects that the students have been identifying and developing, particularly fruit and vegetable production.
 
One of the project beneficiaries is Amparo Gutierrez. She and her family have been growing tomatoes and peppers on their family's plot and have been active participants in the training sessions:
 
"This project has been very positive for our family. We have started growing new crops on our small farm, and we are learning new ways to improve our production. This has helped us to generate more income for our family, and we can better provide for our children."
 
The field staff reports that the training element has gone well, particularly with students – though working with adults requires a different methodological approach. The small farmers being trained have used traditional production techniques their whole lives, and changing to new, more sustainable practices is always a challenge. We hope to harness their lessons learned as we continue to partner with others in the coffee industry on food security initiatives.
 
'Til next week,
Hannah
 
POSTED IN: Seeds
 
 
Les animamos pensar en como va a dar el informe y evaluar su proyecto al mismo tiempo que lo diseña. Haz click aquí para un ejemplo de como podría informarnos de su proyecto después de que esta cumplido. Tocando algunos de las temas claves es más importante que el formato que escoge.
 
POSTED IN: Seeds
 
 
We encourage you to think about how you will report on and evaluate your project at the same time that you design the project. Click here for an example of how you could report on your project after its completion. Covering some of the key topics you'll see there is more important than the actual format you choose.
 
POSTED IN: Seeds
Seeds is an acronym that stands for Sustaining Environmental and Educational Development at Source. Our Seeds program was created to structure and define Counter Culture's monetary contributions to projects that are not coffee-quality-specific but still benefit our coffee-producing partners and their communities. To date, we have contributed a total of $24,963 to projects in 6 countries. We'd like to catch you up on the projects we have funded over the last couple of years through our Seeds program with an eye toward more regular updates of ongoing projects.
 
Our Fourth Project: The Social Impact of Microlots
CENFROCAFE Cooperative
San Ignacio, Peru
 
Hannah Popish (right) with one-time microlot producer Aquino Huachez Huachez on his farm in Peru.
This project was slightly different, as it involved yours truly, a contracted consultant at the time, helping to formalize a study and lead and analyze the research on the social impact of microlots. Together, Cenfrocafe cooperative and Counter Culture Coffee were able to gain greater understanding of the producers' and cooperative's perceptions of microlot production, and their hopes for the future. (Cenfrocafe brings us our Valle del Santuario and La Frontera coffees.)
 
The hypothesis prior to the study was that microlot coffee production may have both a positive and negative impact on communities. The positive impact on cooperative members could be felt by a sense of ownership of their product and a return on investment, while the negative impact could potentially be feelings of envy or competition that quality coffee production promotes among non-microlot members.
 
Data was collected through 13 semi-structured, open-ended, qualitative interviews with microlot and non-microlot members, two with promotores who work in these communities, and one facilitated community meeting with about 65 cooperative members. A few common themes emerged from the interviews, especially with regard to improvements that they believe would help more farmers produce microlots more consistently from year to year. Many growers requested greater definition of which coffee varieties to plant for better cup quality, and others noted a need for better coffee-drying infrastructure – namely, raised beds under plastic tarps. In general, producers did not have a sense of envy for their neighbors who received the microlot premium. Rather, the non-microlot recipients were excited for the microlot recipients and simply desired increased knowledge as to how they too could receive the premium.
 
Counter Culture and Cenfrocafe also agreed that more recognition of top producers – outside of the price premium – would serve an intangible but significant motivational purpose. We will work together on some form of reward or recognition for 2012.
 
While Counter Culture has had similar conversations with producers before, we now have a whole new lens through which to examine them and develop strategies together. We were especially grateful to Teodomiro Melendres and Sergio Ramirez, the 2 promotores from CENFROCAFE who helped to carry out and analyze the responses from their cooperative members. Overall, producers were excited for the opportunity to share their opinions and shed light on their experiences. The cooperative is in the planning stages of how they will use the report to inform long-term action to encourage and manage microlot coffees among their members.
 
If you're interested in more details about the project, you can read the full study here. And, Michael Sheridan of the renowned Borderlands project wrote a review of Counter Culture's microlot study here.
 
'Til next week,
Hannah
 
POSTED IN: Seeds
Seeds is an acronym that stands for Sustaining Environmental and Educational Development at Source. Our Seeds program was created to structure and define Counter Culture's monetary contributions to projects that are not coffee-quality-specific but still benefit our coffee-producing partners and their communities. To date, we have contributed a total of $24,963 to projects in 6 countries. We'd like to catch you up on the projects we have funded over the last couple of years through our Seeds program with an eye toward more regular updates of ongoing projects.
 
Our Fourth Project: Professional Series with Growers
Multiple growers and associations from Central America
Meeting in Honduras
 
Representatives from Honduras's COMSA, Guatemala's Concepción Huista, and Nicaragua's Cinco de Junio.
In July 2011, coffee buyers Tim Hill and Kim Elena Ionescu gathered around 20 growers and co-op representatives from Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala for a two-day workshop in Honduras. The event was comprised of presentations and discussions on topics including experimentation, soil fertility, compost production, variety separation, post-harvest processing, and trends in the consumer market. Participants had the opportunity to learn from one another in person, rather than having to hear anecdotes or conduct isolated research. The class size was kept small, and the material was taught and discussed in the growers' native language.
 
Our hope is to hold more professional series with growers in the future as, at the end of their time together, growers suggested follow up gatherings and spoke of the benefits of forming a committee to continue sharing best practices. These sorts of series are mutually beneficial, like many of our projects. As Kim Elena said: "I feel confident that, in addition to encouraging practices that increase productivity and improve quality, this event demonstrates Counter Culture's commitment to our partners and will in turn strengthen their commitment to us as a buyer." Read more about her take on the experience in the Origins section of our website.
 
Don't just take our word for it, here's what Sonia Vasquez from the Honduran cooperative COMSA, one of the attendees, had to say about the series:
 
It was important to come together with other Honduran organizations and those from other countries to talk about important topics and new technologies for organic agriculture. This motivated us to try various experiments to improve the quality of our coffees, ultimately achieving the sale of more than 40 microlots of producers from different regions. We have also trained technical staff and producers on topics like cupping coffee with the goal of orienting them about ways to improve their quality …. We are now starting a study and documenting the experience of 8 farms of producers from COMSA about 'The application of organic agriculture technologies to improve the coffee cup quality.'
 
This spring, we hope to collaborate on a similar professional series in Ethiopia which will focus entirely on organic agriculture. More on this venture soon!
 
'Til next week,
Hannah
 
POSTED IN: Seeds
Seeds is an acronym that stands for Sustaining Environmental and Educational Development at Source. Our Seeds program was created to structure and define Counter Culture's monetary contributions to projects that are not coffee-quality-specific but still benefit our coffee-producing partners and their communities. To date, we have contributed a total of $24,963 to projects in 6 countries. We'd like to catch you up on the projects we have funded over the last couple of years through our Seeds program with an eye toward more regular updates of ongoing projects.
 
Our Third Project: Trainer for Sound Agricultural Practices
CODECH
Concepción Huista
 
Approximately 1,500 members of the CODECH cooperative, including 350 women, participated in an agricultural training program we helped to fund in Guatemala.
We are entering the second year of a three year cycle on this project. The funds are dedicated to an agricultural trainer. The CODECH cooperative – which produces our Concepción Huista coffee – chose to use the trainer this past year to focus on improving microlot coffee production. To do so, the trainer visited small producers and trained them in harvesting, recognizing plant maturity, and storing coffee in parchment. Approximately 1,500 members of the cooperative participated, including 350 women.
 
For the year ahead, the cooperative has set new goals for the trainer. They hope to have her focus more on cooperative organization, as well as workshops for women on reproductive health and gender empowerment. We look forward to continued follow up as this project enters its second and third years.
 
Here's what two cooperative members who worked with the trainer this year had to say about the support:
 
"Participating in the workshops helped me understand more about the coffee market. It also helped me better understand the wet milling of coffee. I can now count on my coffee export knowledge, and I know where my coffee is sold and what importers and coffee consumers expect." – Don Marcos de Marcos
 
"Participating in the workshops allowed me to know more about the management coffee farms need in order to produce more coffee. I also now know that the coffee harvest at this altitude should give a better coffee profile. Before, I did not know that coffee should be harvested at a certain point to maintain quality and that the pulpers needed to be cleaned every day so as not to continue cross-contamination." – Señora Ana Maria Cota
 
Within the coffee department, we continue to believe that the support of trainers, agronomists, and technicians on the ground is invaluable for cooperatives. Producers are able to get one-on-one attention from experts to learn more about best practices for their particular situation. They strengthen their own production, thus the whole cooperative benefits, and the buyer is even more interested in the cooperative. It's a win-win situation!
 
'Til next week,
Hannah
 
POSTED IN: Seeds
Seeds is an acronym that stands for Sustaining Environmental and Educational Development at Source. Our Seeds program was created to structure and define Counter Culture's monetary contributions to projects that are not coffee-quality-specific but still benefit our coffee-producing partners and their communities. To date, we have contributed a total of $24,963 to projects in 6 countries. We'd like to catch you up on the projects we have funded over the last couple of years through our Seeds program with eye toward more regular updates of ongoing projects.
 
Our Second Project: Activity Field Adjacent to a School
Finca Pashapa
Pashapa, Honduras
 
The Cancha Pashapa activity field in Pashapa, Honduras.
In 2011, we were approached by a longtime partner of ours, Roberto Salazar, who had a vision for his community. Together, nearby producers had often talked about their desire to have a community space where people could gather. Initially, the community board came together to discuss the added value of an activity field.
 
The goal was to provide a safe space for youth to gather and to encourage substance abuse prevention through providing an alternative activity. Once all were in consensus, they began to plan. They agreed to contribute a large monetary amount on their own for the success of the project and then reached out to Counter Culture.
 
Activity "fields" in Latin America are often made out of poured concrete, much like a basketball court. Here people gather to play all manner of sports, most popular being soccer and volleyball. I suppose some of the rational for cement playing fields is that they are often in very rainy areas, so, while it may be slightly painful if you were to fall and scrape yourself, it’s preferable to sinking in the mud while trying to beat your competitor!
 
Now that the field has been built, it has been well-used. The youth of the area come out often to play sports. When adults in the community see their activities, they are also inspired and often join in or simply use the field as a meeting space. The community leadership let us know that they feel pleased about the field’s ability to contribute to the physical and emotional well being of the community.
 
Stay tuned for the next installment in our updates on Seeds projects!
 
'Til next time,
Hannah
 
POSTED IN: Seeds

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