𝘕𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳 29, 2021
My parents lived among the hill tribes of Northern Thailand during the early 1990’s. While subsistence farming fed the people, the only cash crop was poppies. A cooperative venture was started between the Karen people and a large coffee chain to sell Thai coffee in the US. The excess coffee not purchased was then marketed under their own brand as Tobeebay Coffee. The Karen had cultivated coffee for decades in the foggy mountains of Northern Thailand. By turning the coffee into a cash crop the people were able to find income without the connection to the drug trade that was destroying their culture. According to their packaging, the project initiatives are three-fold. “To give the Karen a source of income . . . To advocate for the well-being of the ethnic minorities, . . . and to elevate the tribal people economically, socially, intellectually, and spiritually.”
I was forwarded an article on the Quapaw tribe in the US and their quest to become self-sufficient. This effort means everything served in their Down Stream Casino comes from their own farms and businesses. One of these efforts is roasting the coffee used by the Quapaw businesses. The tribe owns two smoke shops and motor fuel outlets, known as the Quapaw C-Store and Downstream Q-Store, and own and operate the Eagle Creek Golf Course and resort in Loma Linda, Missouri. The primary economic drivers have been their gaming casinos. Two are in Quapaw, the Quapaw Casino and the Downstream Casino Resort, and a third casino, the Saracen Casino Resort, is in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. These generate most of the revenue for the tribe, and are used to support welfare, health, and education of tribal members.
When I looked online, I found an article from earlier this year in Barista Magazine talking about the growing number of Indigenous coffee roasters and featuring two of them, Ekowah Coffee of the Osage Nation, and O-Gah-Pah Coffee of the Quapaw Nation. Ekowah means “friend” in the Osage language, and their values of respect, equity, and the goodwill of friendship are extended at every level of business. This year O-Gah-Pah’s commitment to sourcing fair trade and organic coffees led them to work with the Montero family in Costa Rica. The overhaul of the Montero’s coffee program is part of an expanded agriculture program by the Quapaw. “Indigenous Sovereignty is strengthened through our food,” say Ben Parker and Lauren Cousatte, members of the Quapaw Nation. “We started by returning Bison to our homeland … we have greenhouses that produce vegetables and herbs and have started a seed bank.” There are over 15 Native-owned coffee roasters in the US.
𝗧𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀: Fair trade is an arrangement designed to help producers in growing countries achieve sustainable and equitable trade relationships. Members of the fair-trade movement add the payment of higher prices to exporters, as well as improve social and environmental standards. The movement focuses particularly on products that are typically exported from the developing countries but includes use in domestic markets. This includes handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, wine, sugar, fruit, flowers, and gold. Fair Trade is a big business with labeling organizations monitoring what defines and what can be called fair trade. The organizations are backed by consumers, and are actively engaged in supporting producers, raising awareness, and campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of international trade. Another positive aspect of globalization. Do the work. Change is coming and it starts with you.