Coming into today, I had different intentions for this post. I had an idea to write about some health benefits of coffee I came across, but through my research I found something that I thought was more interesting at this particular time.
On Tuesday, January 12, 2010, a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 M earthquake struck the capital city of Haiti, Port-au-Prince. More than 150,000 people have been reported dead and the numbers keep coming in. Thousands of commercial buildings have been destroyed, including the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly and the Port-au-Prince Cathedral.
After weeks of seeing all of the devastation online and on the news on TV, I have began to wonder about the economy in Haiti now, mainly how the earthquake has affected coffee production in the country. Just Haiti, a program committed to help alleviate poverty, hunger, violence, illiteracy, and disease in Haiti through developing small businesses and aims to build a equitable fair partnership between coffee consumers in North America and coffee growers in Haiti, has asked supporters to contribute to an earthquake relief fund that will benefit Baradères.
Baradères is the home to coffee growers in Haiti, who grow Kafe Lespwa. Ever since the devastating earthquake, thousands of Haitians are fleeing to towns or other remote areas that aren't as affected as some of the main cities like Port-au-Prince and Léogâne. Many of them are escaping to Baradères, where family and friends will try to feed them, clothe them and help them through this rough time.
Baradères is located at the far end of a long peninsula that stretches west from Port-au-Prince and the region covers about 60 square miles. The economy is solely based on subsistence farming and coffee production only occurs within that context. Subsistence farming is where only enough food and crops are grown to feed the family and maybe only a little extra to sell on the market. According to the Just Haiti Web site, people of Baradères don't -or can't- participate much in the cash market.
Just Haiti is primarily focused on the coffee-growing area around the Baradères River region. The amount of coffee grown there is unknown, but two coffee varieties are grown, based on elevation. Up until about 1986, Brokers in Baradères and elsewhere in Haiti purchased the growers' coffee crop, but today the growers produce and sell their coffee primarily to local residents, sometimes for barter or cash.
Production of the coffee is all done by hand, no chemicals or machines are used during the process. When the coffee cherries are ripe, they are picked and put into a water tank. The bad cherries float and are then discarded. From this point, most countries use wet-milling processes, but the process here is a bit different. After the floating, growers dry the cherries on cement patios, which produces what the Haitians call kafe an krok. Coffee can be stored for several months in this state. Coffee that is not stored, hand tools are used to knock off the pulp and remove the husk in a single step. The husked, ready-to-roast green bean parts are sorted and cleaned. This is done by a circular mat made of palm leaves. These beans are called kafe pile. (A loan fund set up by Just Haiti, will help the growers to eventually be able to finance the establishment of wet milling methods. This will help make processing more efficient and increase earning potential of the farmers' labor).
Since the population of Baradères will be growing more quickly, they need to build a more sustainable economy, and that is what the funds will help. Just Haiti lists coffee as being the anchor of that economy and encourages supporters to buy Kafe Lespwa.
Even through this terrible time for Haiti, I think it is remarkable that they are still able to make a living with their coffee and that it wasn't destroyed in the earthquake. If you are interested in donating anything here is the link, http://www.justhaiti.org/donate.htm. Even if you don't donate anything, I just ask, that the next time you enjoy a cup of coffee, just think about all that has happened in Haiti and hope that the people there get the much needed support they need to get their lives back on track and the country cleaned up.
Until next time, I leave you with these couple of photos from the Just Haiti Web site of Baradères.