Sunday, March 20, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
As we returned to Kigali, we took a sobering visit to the Nyamata Church. The church is now a memorial for the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. A museum representative explained in vivid detail the horrific events that took place in the church where nearly 10,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus were brutally murdered after cramming into the small space in hopes of finding refuge. Monday evening, we sat together to reflect upon our visit to the memorial. It made the development that we have seen and the experiences that we shared in the villages even more amazing. We had a lot to discuss, and thought about what we could learn from Business on the Frontlines, and the implications the class had on our roles as future business leaders. One of the ideas that came through was that perhaps ‘good’ was less of a designation, but more of an aspiration – we can hope to be good, it’s something to strive for, but not something to expect.
On Tuesday, we split into two teams to meet with the Rwanda Cooperative Agency (RCA) and Rwanda Agricultural Development Agency (RADA). Both teams had the opportunity to speak with the Director General of each agency. Mariana, Justin L., Israel and I learned about the RCA’s role to promote, register and regulate cooperatives. We also had the opportunity to hear about RCA’s savings and credit cooperative organizations, which were developed to help ease vulnerable people from low level savings to more organized financial institutions. Justin W., Rob, Ahmad and Adam learned about the challenges that RADA is addressing throughout the agricultural industry, such as population growth and land mass.
Tuesday afternoon we visited the Genocide Museum in Kigali. It was another heart-wrenching yet thought-provoking experience. The museum was even more of an education in the history of genocide around the world, and inspired a lot more thought on the topic. Seeing the photos of children killed during the terrifying days, and looking at the last mementos of lost family members really hit home. The thought that these were some of the only memories people had of their family put the team into a somber mood. Feelings brightened later as we went out to the best Indian restaurant in Kigali, Khana Khazana. We gorged ourselves on delicious naan and curries, while Justin W. struggled to avoid any spiciness approaching his tongue, and Mariana and Justin L. celebrated the extreme spiciness of some of the dishes.
After concluding our field visits with government agencies yesterday, we spent this morning exploring the various artisan shops in Kigali. It only took the guys about five minutes, while Mariana and I marveled for quite a bit longer. But, in the afternoon we got down to business. We look forward to presenting to our partners at CRS/Rwanda tomorrow and reuniting with our family and friends in a few days!
Saturday March 12th. 11:30 am. Team Rwanda starts their journey to visit the high Mountain Gorillas driven by Robert –or Roberto Anderetti as we usually call him. After 2 hours traveling along winding roads on the edge of a 2-miles down precarious views, we arrive at the Asoferwa Kinigi Guest House –our lodge for the night.
After a short walk, the team heads to the guest house’s restaurant where they play spades and eat local delicacies as they watch the skies go from blue to black in a matter of minutes. The volcanoes, that earlier loomed high above, disappear into the dark clouds. The team enjoys card games and local Primus beer in front of the communal fireplace, while pouring rain bangs loudly on the roof. At 10 we all go to bed since we have an early appointment with the next part of our adventure.
Sunday, March 13. 6:00 am. The six adventurers prepare for their journey by downing a simple breakfast of eggs and toast. After a short ride, we arrive at the Visitors office were we have a short security brief: 7 meters away from the Gorillas is the instruction. We are placed with a guide and he tells the group we will see the Bwenge Family consisting of ~20 members. As we ride on a very bumpy road to the base of the volcano, we silently thank our hosts for sending us with Robert on a sturdy 4x4. 30 minutes later we arrive to the base (which is at 2,500 meters above sea level) and our guide informs us that 2 hours of trekking up the volcano awaits us before finding the Gorillas. Welcomed by farmers and children we traversed for 75 minutes through Irish Potato plots. Upon reaching a large rock fence that marked the start of the National Park, we saw a radical change of vegetation: from farm fields along the mountains to dense and muddy jungle. We met one of the Gorilla trackers who lead the way chopping away the jungle vegetation with a sharp machete. Forty minutes –and several stinging nettles injuries- later we are told to stop and leave all of our bags, as we had reached the Bwenges. Nervously we prepare. “No Flash, no sneezing, no coughing, no loud sounds”, we are told, “leave your walking sticks and follow our lead”. We walk for a few feet and suddenly we hear a strong sound of shaking trees. Our eyes open widely as before us appear a baby Gorilla and its mother eating branches. We ogled for what seemed like eternity and then followed the guides to see more members of the family. The leader of the pack–a 24 year old silver back- ate plants followed by a dessert of berries. He then found a comfortable clearing where he attempted to remain awake for his guests, but eventually surrendered to his food coma and laid down for a nap. During this time we were able to see more baby Gorillas and females. Before long our hour with the Bwenges was over. As a parting gift, one of the babies jokingly beat his chest to remind us of who was in charge. Careful not to fall along the slippery, dark, muddy trail we rushed out of the Jungle taking a final glance at the thick vegetation and the towering trees. We walked down in silence in disbelief of the amazing experience we had been blessed to live.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
After a day of driving for hours to meet with villagers in the field, some of our team decided to venture out of our hotel to get a little exercise and marvel at the beauty of Uganda’s landscape. Mount Abim towered over our hotel and seemed like a reasonable hike for us to do in the couple of hours we had before dinner.
We started the ascent, but a crowd quickly grew of children and young men who were interested in watching four “mzungus” struggle up the hill that they have no problem climbing. Once we got to the top, we quickly we learned that their interests also lied in potentially receiving some kind of reward for “guiding” us up the path.
In Business on the Frontlines, we frequently discuss the difference between aid and development and realized this was an opportunity for us not to buy into the system and simply handout money, especially when nothing was agreed upon from the outset. We did not want to become part of the problem.
Nonetheless, we wished that we had something small, like candy, to reward the younger people for their enthusiasm and smiles as we climbed the hill. As we hiked down, Kirsten remembered that she had a box of Tic Tacs in her purse from the Amsterdam airport. We guessed that there were about 50 mints left in the box, but probably close to 60 children at the bottom of the hill waiting for arrival back on the ground (they, of course, we much faster at getting to the bottom of the hill).
How were we going to going to equitably share the Tic Tacs? We didn’t want to start a riot among the children over the candies and we also wanted to make sure everyone got their fair share.
As we got closer to the bottom, we saw a man amongst the crowd of children who had told us he was a pastor for the local church while on top Mt. Abim. We decided the best method for sharing the Tic Tacs would be to give them to him and instruct him to share them with the children.
After much clapping to celebrate our successful hike at the bottom of the hill, Kirsten carefully took out the Tic Tacs and clearly instructed the pastor to share the Tic Tacs with the larger crowd of children, which appeared to grow to 70-80 people.
The pastor smiled and indicated that he understood our instructions and outstretched his hand. Upon receipt of the box he quickly took out one of the mints, gave it to his own son, pocketed the rest, and walked away.
Shocked at what he had just witnessed we called the pastor back – “wait, no that’s not we went meant. Distribute the mints now, with us here.” The pastor ignored us and kept walking.
This may seem like an inconsequential story, but after everything we learned about corruption and authority in Uganda we failed to put our findings in practice. In a sense, we are glad that it happened because the lessons of “Tic Tac Corruption” keep entering our dialogue.
What should we have done differently? Should we have paid the villagers at the top of the mountain? What about telling the children about the candy so they could hold the pastor accountable? Is the pastor doing the right thing by looking out for his family?
Monday, March 14, 2011
At the half-way mark, the Rwanda team is in good spirits! After a marvelous first week, we spent Friday evening recounting events and developing our “week 1” hypothesis. Between our group members, we have traveled by car over 1000 kilometers to the corners of Rwanda and visited representatives from each of CRS’ project divisions. Our meetings have spanned from one-on-ones with co-operative directors and the National University of Rwanda’s Dean, to group meetings with villages of over 300 people who participate in the SILC program. Our first week introductions have led to several exciting ideas about direction for CRS and its programs. We are going to continue testing and improving those rough ideas as we continue meetings next week. But it’s the weekend, so enough about “work.”
After developing our first week hypothesis, we treated ourselves to dinner at one of Kigali’s finest Asian restaurants called “Zen.” We have all been delighted by the number and variety of places to spend our student loans (or sign-on bonuses - for some of us). The restaurant scene is wonderfully established and we have had several meals that would rival even the best dining in the States. We have also visited Bourbon Coffee probably half-a-dozen times for much needed caffeine boosts. Along the way, we have dropped in on Nakumatt (chain of super-markets) three or four times for house-hold necessities. To say we are roughing it would be a stretch.
We will be spending this weekend out of Kigali to visit the volcano park and wild gorilla reserve in Northern Rwanda. As this is being drafted (Saturday morning), our team is humming along the North-South highway route with our trusted driver Robert at the wheel. Our destination is near Musanze, one of the northern-most cities in Rwanda in the high mountains near the beautiful five volcano region. Musanze is much higher altitude than Kigali, and we continue to climb higher and higher into the mountains, while watching thousands of hectors of corn and banana trees pass. About every minute Robert taps his horn to alert pedestrians along the way that we are coming and they should move. This is important because there are pedestrians EVERYWHERE. Our team continues to marvel at the sheer density of Rwanda’s human population. Even in the high mountains far between cities, there is a constant string of neat, rectangular houses and constant foot traffic along the roadside. Each home is accompanied by clean, swept, red clay yards, children playing, plots of subsistence vegetables and droves of locals carrying goods along the shoulder of the road. These beautiful sites accent the rich vegetation and breath-taking mountainous landscape (pictures to follow).
As we travel north and anticipate the exciting visit to the mountain gorillas, our conversation is always drawn back to the events of our stay. On Friday night we spoke to a young Rwandan business man. He told us that of his original clan of 500, only 50 remained alive after 1994. His family fled to Uganda during the genocides, and he only recently returned to his native land. And despite that horrifying context, his fervor and excitement glowed in his eyes as he talked about business and opportunity in Rwanda. As for the future of Rwanda, his words have stuck with us, “everything you see here has happened in the last ten years,” he said “now give us ten more years and just see what we can do.”
It’s time to wrap this up and go see some gorillas, but we want to leave a few thoughts of our first-week, specifically about the people of Rwanda. In the past week, we have been privileged to meet one of the world’s more industrious, welcoming and beautiful people. We are pressed to find barely a foot of the country that is not cultivated, planted and growing crops. Roadways are clean and smooth. Homes are spotless and sturdy. And everywhere we go, we are greeted with warm smiles and strong hand shakes. Anyone who believes Africa is “stuck” in a hopeless cycle hasn’t visited Rwanda yet.
From a happy, healthy, and excited team in Rwanda – happy weekend everyone!
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Team Uganda apologies for the lack of posts. We have been up in Northern Uganda with no access to internet. We have had an amazing couple of days with a lot of moving and impactful moments, hope, and a strong desire to find a sustainable solution to the water situation we have seen first hand here. But as a team, we believe this opportunity is bigger than water.
Since our last post where we visited our first SILC group we have had the opportunity to travel to four more villages in Northern Uganda. Most of these villages are people who were in the in the IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) Camps for the last 20 years and have now returned back to their villages with in the last 2 years. These people are starting over with a threat looming of the rebel army coming back.
We had incredible meetings with all the villages. Each village we visited we would further perfect our method for running the meetings. In the end we began the meeting with the whole group – our team, CRS, and the men and the women of the village attending the meetings. From there we would break out into small groups, each with a translator – a women’s group, a men’s group, and a mixed group. We felt that we got the best insights from these breakout sessions where the groups were smaller and the people, particularly the women, felt more comfortable opening up to us.
We have so many stories from these visits that we thought we would just share a few insights and stories in this post:
- As mentioned earlier, many of the people in the villages we met with had been living in IDP camps up until about 2 years ago. Within these villages, we met some incredible powerful people that were orphaned or abducted from their villages by the rebels. Their stories impacted every member of our team. We are still processing these interactions
- We all felt the frustration of the opportunity within the villages. So much of their focus is on obtaining basic needs (getting water, food, etc) that planning for the future is not taken into account. In fact, the word future doesn’t exist in some of the local languages.
- There is so much potential and hope of the people in the communities we met with this week.
- One amazing aspect of all the villages we met with was the strength of the communities and their interest in working together to become better and help each other out
- We’ve been eating a lot of local food such as ground hogs (edible rats), goat (including goat intestines), chicken, beef… Greg wins the prize for the most adventurous eater.
- Oscar was the first to test out the sanitation practices of the village and the first ever to receive a standing ovation from the entire community upon exiting the latrine.
We are now headed out for Indian food in Kampala to decompress from our intense week!
We have successfully converted James, our peace studies student to the “dark side” and we have evidence by the following comments:
-In discussion about how we want to create a PVC (plastic piping) business in Uganda, James offered to be an exporter and most importantly wanted a really cool name for our business.
-Then in a discussion about how our business would run James asked how would we get the capital for that. To which he followed up his capital comment with, “I can’t believe I just used the word capital. I didn’t know what that meant 7 weeks ago!”
James, you can now share this with your father-in-law so he can see all you have learned in grad school!
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Friday, March 11, 2011
We enjoyed a night together as a team and preparing for a full weekend of meeting with groups the peace and recon team works with and The Archbishop Capalla for mass on Sunday.
Aaron, Andy, Ben, Ross, Bridget, and Michelle.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Our second day in Mindanao began with a fruitful visit to Mr. Fred, a local buyer of coffee who supports his farmers with machinery, cultivation training, and subsidized social services. This on top of his time as the local pastor and chairman of the board for an orphanage. We had a great meeting with him learning about his successes and challenges while enjoying our first cup of Civet coffee. That afternoon we visited one of Nestle's mobile buying stations to better understand what the holder of 90% market share looks for when purchasing coffee. It has been fascinating learning so much about a product we all use every day, yet knew so little about. It seems like there is some real potential for a revival in Filipino production, it'll just be up to us to figure out how to do it.
Outside of our project scope we have had a very impactful visit. Travelling from Manila to Mindanao was like night and day. Manila is a bustling Asian hub compared to the much less developed, much more rural Mindanao. Even more surprising was the stark difference across provincial borders into Muslim provinces -- the difference is immediately noticeable. We were able to pass by the site of the "Maguindanao Masacre" and heard from our guides what happened in its aftermath.
We've really enjoyed the opportunity to meet with so many of these farmers and understand how they live day to day. Their strength, generosity and sense of community has been inspiring. And in return we give them the entertainment of Michelle's height. In addition to the constant stares and smiles, my favorite comments have included: "How high are you?", "What are you?" and "whooooaaaa".
Tomorrow we are meeting with coffee traders and then being passed off to the CRS Peace and Reconciliation team for two days. Should be an exciting change of pace!
We checked out of Malaybalay today and started driving further south. It took awhile to get out of Malaybalay because of the festival parade today. The entire town was packed with people (they started lining up on the streets at least as early as 5:45 when I first looked out. By 7:30 it was a solid mass).
We had one stop to make today up in Bagong Silang to an association (not quite a full co-op, but a registered grouping of 6 clusters totaling 119 farmers). This association already had two multipurpose courts (play basketball and dry coffee, corn, etc) but were in the process of building an all-weather raised drying station. It rains often in Mindanao, often sunny only 5 days a month during harvest time, making it difficult to produce quality coffee. We were joined by CRS’s partners Kaaniib who help with the implementation of the projects.
We said goodbye to Terry after lunch (he went back up to CDO) and we traveled on to link back up with the other group. For the first sunny day, it was sad to spend so much of the day in the car. But on the other hand, we have a full team now. Ross just popped into our room to see about getting a computer to type up some notes and maybe he'll blog some on what their team has been up to. Till tomorrow...
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Today our team split into two groups. The first group, comprised of Justin L., Ahmad, and Rob, traveled to the Koakaka farmers Cooperative and the University of Rwanda in the Nyamagabe and Huye provinces (southwest Rwanda). The remaining team members, Amy, Mariana, Israel, and I, traveled to visit a SILC group gathering in the Kibungo province (southeast Rwanda). Justin L. Ahmad, and Professor Easley will be staying overnight in Huye, and we are looking forward to hearing about their experience tomorrow (3/10) at the CRS-Rwanda office in Kigali; however, this blog will detail group two’s experience at the SILC gathering in Kibungo.
This morning group two was picked up by our driver for the day (Robert) and met our CRS assigned liaison (Anthalie) just before 8am. From there we travelled nearly 2.5 hours southeast through one of the most picturesque landscapes in the world. The entire countryside was green with vegetation. We saw fields full of banana, pineapple, coffee, cassava, maize and other crops. Mountains and hills surrounded the road which was filled by endless clusters of pedestrians on foot, motorcycles, and bicycles. One unique observation our team noted during the drive was that the rural areas are densely populated; this country is literally bursting with activity.
Upon arriving in Kibungo we met the priest of the local parish and then traveled 15-20 miles on rocky dirt roads to the SILC gathering. During the drive we heard the children on the road yelling, “Muzungu! Muzungu!”, which means white person (according to the locals I’m a Muzungu). Eventually, we pulled up to a huge gathering of over 300 people underneath a group of banana trees in a small area next to the church. The people crowded around us, pulled up a bench, and asked each of us to stand on it and introduce ourselves. They enjoyed our humble attempts to say “thank you” in their native language. Next, our team sat with one of the 17 SILCs comprised of over 30 people in attendance and watched them meticulously account for their savings and loans. The success of the SILC program in these farmer groups was undeniable, members used funds to buy a cow, purchase goats, open a salon, and provide a mobile phone charging station in the village. Before we left, Israel played with a large group of children, Justin W. staged a massive race, Mariana and Amy were tailed by young and old alike, and we all were humbled by the chance to experience the culture in this wonderful community.
At the end of the day we each were served goat brochettes and fried banana with Coca-Cola and Sprite (yes Coca-Cola bottling company is everywhere!) and we were sent back on our way to Kigali.
Until next time…Amy, Mariana, Israel, and Justin W. (aka group 2)
P.S.– Group 1 we miss you guys!
The GLCI organizes farmers into groups, provides several varieties of disease-resistant cassava seed to famers, as well as agricultural training related to planting the crop, crop rotation, and monitoring for signs of disease. Through GLCI, those farmer groups who receive seed and successfully grow healthy, quality cassava provide root cuttings to other farmer groups. This multiplication effect has helped the most poor and vulnerable farmers to achieve food stability. Laptops help facilitate trainings to the farmers related to more effective agriculture techniques and savings and internal lending communities (SILC), as well as to record and report project progress throughout the region.
In addition to the cassava multiplication efforts, CRS’ SILC project has been implemented across several farmer groups. SILC provides a means for the farmers to save small amounts of money with fellow groups members and then to borrow funds from the group for household needs or new business ideas. The SILC group, as a whole, agrees to lend funds to members with agreed upon repayment terms. With the help of field agents from CRS, the group makes its own rules and keeps its own records. At the end of a year, a group share-out returns funds to the members with accrued interest.
We had the opportunity to meet with over 30 farmer group members and SILC group members in their fields. We learned a lot about cassava farming and the hopes that the farmers have for their futures. The good planting materials and training provided through the initiative have helped the farmers achieve food stability, as well as to have enough cassava to sell at the market. Members were happy to share their stories from participating in the initiative and in SILC. Many women spoke to the positive impact SILC had on their ability to improve the livelihood of their households and to empower them within their communities.
Muracoze to Janvier, Caritas Kabgayi and all of the farmers who took the time to speak with us today!
Oh, and Mariana tried the cassava…only after was she told the bark is poisonous. So far, so good.
-- Amy, Justin W., Mariana and Rob
Another busy day in northern Mindanao. Last night we stayed in Malaybalay in the Bukidnon province and today we ended up having four meetings. First stop was the municipal center where we talked with Romeo, the municipal administrator. Everyone thought we were either the Australians (who had a meeting later that day) or with the USDA. They were shocked that American college kids would have an interest in the area. He recalled back to the 60s and 70s when his municipality grew all kinds of coffee and he is happy to see the industry coming back with the renewed emphasis on the local farmers after the large multinationals made many inroads with pineapple and bananas. On the way out, we ran into the mayor who was glad to have us there as well and informed us to check in with the police chief (the military was running an operation in the highlands and wanted us to stay away).
The second stop was across the courtyard to the Ag office where we talked with a technician responsible for a zone above 1000m--prime Arabica land and a non-cluster farmer. We learned so much from their different perspectives on the difficulties getting farmers to grow coffee, mono-cropping, the influence of traders, and some of the hesitations of entering into clusters/co-ops especially among smaller farmers.
Our third stop was up to a CRS cluster and this was another great insight into some of the benefits of a cluster. Getting there wasn’t easy--we had to get out of our Pajero because it couldn’t get up the hill, so we jumped in the bed of a Hilux. That even had trouble sliding around on the slick red clay. At the top, we talked to two cluster leaders and several of the members. Since joining the cluster, they’ve improved their yield and the ability to sell it to Nestle at mostly grade 1 and some grade 2. That has meant a significant increase in revenue for them since they no longer have to sell to traders at below market rates. They then treated us to a great lunch--a coarser version of corn grits and boiled chicken. Getting down the hill was a bit trickier after the downpour as the truck slide off the road several times and we ended up walking several kilometers.
Finally, we were treated to a tour of Monk’s Blend coffee by Nicholas. Monk’s Blend is a locally sourced Robusta-Arabica coffee that serves a primarily domestic market. They buy above Nestle’s price so that they can get the highest quality around and churn out about 96 metric tons of coffee per year. The coffee has some fame as people in Manila ask for relatives and friends to bring it back if they travel to Mindanao. I bought a few bags of the blend and Ben picked up a bag of their Arabica beans.
We’re starting to settle in now that it is getting dark--might even have another cup of coffee since our hotel serves Monk’s Blend. Have a good night.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Our group had a little bit of a later start leaving the hotel at 7 this morning and flying to Cagayan de Oro in the north of the island. It was a beautiful flight looking down on the various islands of the Visayas. CDO is a totally different world from Manila. We were the only plane at the airport with a single baggage belt inside of an open air terminal.
So after landing and meeting Terry, we headed off into the hills for our first meeting of the day--a lunch meeting with the Mindanao franchisee for Rocky Mountain Arabica Coffee Company. Bobby and his sons are working to sell their single serve brewing machines into restaurants throughout the island. Right now they only have a few but are working on expanding. One of the main issues is that brewed coffee is associated with poor farmers while Nescafe instant coffee is the predominant choice. RMACC has an interesting model where they seek to control the quality from seed to cup.
Then it was off to meet Tito at Nestle’s Cagayan de Oro Processing Facility. It is the Philippine’s only facility for making Nescafe Classic and it serves the whole domestic market. If they are short on beans, they import first from Nestle Vietnam and then Nestle Indonesia. Not only is it a processing facility, but CDO is also one of their buying stations so they do an inspection there as well. In addition to defects and moisture levels, they also taste test the coffee which Ben and I tried out today. It was interesting that both companies are primarily trying to serve a domestic market in two different directions. Both are coping with generating enough quality supply, but RMACC is trying to change tastes and perceptions.
Now we are up in the hills in Malaybalay City. While the drive was not that far, the road is twisty and slow with traffic. A great dinner and then it’ll be an early night to get some sleep. Till tomorrow night...
Monday, March 7, 2011
Today we split into two groups and flew to the southern island of Mindanao, the focus of our project. Team southern Mindanao drove two hours from General Santos (home of Manny "pacman" Pacquio) to a small coffee farming community on the base of a volcano. We had great interviews with a few farmers, and learned about their process from tree to market. They were gracious hosts and great sources of information. Tomorrow we'll meet with the single purchaser of their beans and hopefully have our first "cupping" session. We're also pushing to try some of the exclusive "civet coffee", a blend of beans that are eaten by small jungle cats who ferment the beans in their stomach and poop out a blend that goes for upwards of $150 per pound -- delish!
We hit the ground running this morning. Ben and I were up by 6 and out for some breakfast and a stroll through the neighborhood before it got hot. It turns out that we all went out in pairs, but we didn’t see each other. At 930 we all met down in the lobby for our ride to CRS. It was only a few miles, but the traffic in the city is amazing. A couple quick honks on the horn to let someone know that: a) they are drifting into your “lane”, b) let them know that you intend to drift into their “lane”, or c) you are in my way and better get moving. I think everyone’s favorite so far is the Geepenee’s, which are half buses/half jeeps that are painted all kinds of designs that seem to be the most prevalent form of city transport. Not surprisingly given the traffic, they have some serious bumpers on them. I think we'll have plenty of pictures of them when we get back.
At CRS we were introduced to the staff and then Lionel treated us to a brief on CRS’s initiatives. Of course after all our research, everyone had a thousand questions and he could barely get through a slide without a dozen thoughts popping into everyone’s head. After a good morning orientation, we had a great lunch down in the restaurant--most of the dishes are named after the favorites of different Archbishops, Bishops, and Monseigneurs.
Heads up Uganda--we’re bringing you some info on local water usage/control in place here in the Philippines.
After lunch, we were off to APFTI, Advocate of Philippine Fair Trade. That took us to Quezon City which is part of greater Manila. We were treated to one of the largest round-a-bouts in the world--8 lanes wide circling 2 hectares (5 acres in the middle). Mr Vicente Roaring and Danilo “Danny” Ocampo gave us a great two hours of their time. Their organization focuses on the small entrepreneurs that serve a mainly domestic market. As such, the cost of obtaining the international fair trade label for each product is prohibitive. APFTI (and several other Filipino groups) have filled in that gap. Besides the craft and small processed foods industry, they have also been working on a project to see if they can put the value of roasting coffee beans into the hands of smaller clusters and co-ops so the farmers can serve a developing domestic market without having to go through traders and MNC buyers. It offers our group an interesting alternative to explore as before we had assumed that our go to market was to sell to either exporters or local roasters instead of the co-ops controlling the whole processing chain. Question your assumptions.
We also hit the local wet market this evening--plenty of small merchants selling everything from electronics, to vegetables, to meats and fish. The “butcher blocks” really caught my eye--they were tree trunks cut in 4 inch slices. Then it was off to the mall for some dinner. Of course this “smaller mall” is about double the size of the UP in South Bend. All this in close proximity to each other, but then again, when you’ve got to fight traffic like you do in Manila, it is much better to having everything close.
Tomorrow our team splits up as we head further south. Group 1 is myself, Aaron, and Ben and Group 2 is Bridget, Michelle, and Ross. We’ll be apart for a couple of days so look forward to some great posts as we get out to the coffee farmer level.
Team Philippines has made it to Manila. Korean Air was good--definitely worth it for the Bibimbap and a good movie selection. It was the middle of the night when we finally arrived, and that’s probably good thing because traffic wasn’t so bad coming from the airport. We might have made it sooner, but Ben got hung up in the immigration line--chose the wrong one. He should have been like Michelle and slipped through the short diplomatic/official travel line. Ryan from the Davao office was waiting in the hotel when we got here so he had about as late of a night as we did, but didn’t have to travel as far. We were all glad to finally make it.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Team Rwanda is now in Bourbon café, for some of us it is the second time we will eat here. The ambiance is peaceful and looks like an African inspired Starbucks. Wifi is free and the coffee is delicious! This morning we shared breakfast with Fortune, the Management Quality Coordinator for Catholic Relief /Rwanda, and learned all about his 12 years with CRS. He told us about how pleasant and reserved people from Rwanda are. After breakfast he drove us around the city for a while – we saw CRS offices, President Kagame’s home and Parliament buildings. Kigali is a beautiful, hilly and green city. We marveled at all of the families leisurely strolling on Sunday evening all formally dressed.
Back at the guesthouse, Amy and I went for a run, which was more challenging than we thought given the hilly nature of the terrain. Nevertheless, we got a good 30 minute run before going back to the house. Soon after the rest of the team (J. Liu, Ahmad and Prof. Easley) arrived, and we got some time to speak to them before heading out for dinner, where we are currently.
We are very excited to begin work tomorrow with CRS!
Saturday, March 5, 2011
We are going to have lunch today with a Peace Corps volunteer living in Kampala thanks to Greg's PC connections, dinner tonight with Kirsten's contact who works for the One campaign, and get our bearings in Kampala. Should be a good day!
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Over 85% of the labor force in Rwanda works in agriculture, and a significant proportion of these individuals are subsistence farmers. In the remote countryside, farmers are challenged with little or no access to quality seed and fertilizer, nor capital to purchase the products. Additionally, minimal infrastructure and no means of transportation make it difficult for farmers to sell their products at markets.
We are excited to learn more in country from our partners at CRS/Rwanda, and we look forward to keeping you updated!
-- Adam, Ahmad, Amy, Israel, Justin L., Justin W., Mariana and Rob
Coffee is one of the largest markets in the world, second only to oil and gas, and is very diverse. Coffee growing is concentrated largely underdeveloped tropical and subtropical regions. Many of these areas have experienced conflict in the past and some more recently than others; the Philippines, and specifically Mindanao, are no exception. Where there has been more stability and the right conditions, large coffee plantations have evolved; however, most of the coffee worldwide is still grown by small land holders. With the growth of Fair Trade standards and a greater international desire for good coffee, a lot of attention is now focused on improving the lives of these many farmers working the soil.
Catholic Relief Services (CRS)/Philippines has asked us, Team Philippines, to provide them with a greater understanding of the coffee value chain and identify opportunities and weaknesses. The Philippines were once one of the coffee powerhouses of the world, but have slipped into obscurity during the past century. The desired end-state is to facilitate CRS’s ability to better design and implement programs that benefit Mindanao’s small coffee farmers and their co-ops, and perhaps restore the country to their former prestige. To prepare, we have been reading everything we can on coffee against the backdrop of the course’s focus on development for conflict-affected regions. A heartfelt thanks to Winston Roast at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Scott Murphy, a former Dunkin’ Donuts VP for their great insight into the coffee world that has gotten us off to a great start.
Our goal is to learn as much as we can while in country, gain an empathetic understanding of the difficulties that the these farmers face, and help provide the insight that benefits CRS, the Philippines’ coffee market, and ultimately those farmers. And if we’re lucky, get a little cupping in while we’re there too.
We have a long trip ahead of us and we’ll be putting in many hours before we leave and while on the ground, but we’re all excited for this opportunity and experience. Wish us luck as we take off on Saturday and we’ll keep you posted.
Aaron, Andy, Ben, Bridget, Michelle, and Ross
Seriously, though, what does business have to do with peace? And why are MBAs and peace studies students visiting these countries together?
We all know that resource extraction, labor abuse, and environmental degradation has contributed much to human suffering and war. This is the dark side of globalization and business, and it must be contended with. But this is not the end of the story; not by far. We are asking how business knowledge and processes might contribute to the building of a just and sustainable peace, and how business and conflict affect each other, both positively and negatively. This new partnership between the Kroc Institute and the Mendoza School of Business is beginning to explore many of these critical issues.
“At its core, peacebuilding nurtures constructive human relationships. To be relevant, it must do so strategically, at every level of society and across the potentially polarizing lines of ethnicity, class, religion, and race.”
- John Paul Lederach and R. Scott Appleby, Strategies of Peace: Transforming Conflict in a Violent World (2010).
If this true, then it is just as important to include business in the peacebuilding conversation as it is to include peacebuilding in the business conversation.