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