The Coffeelands Trust is a fund that provides direct support for coffee farmers and their families who have been injured by landmines / explosive remnants of war (ERW) in conflict regions around the World.
Throughout coffee growing regions, explosives and remnants of war can devastate the lives of coffee workers, their families, and their communities. The Trust provides direct support to victims of conflict who live and work in coffee regions.
The Trust works with local partners to identify individual coffee producers who have survived a landmine or unexploded ordnance accident and supports their physical rehabilitation and economic integration through non-governmental organizations and local service providers active in their regions. This funding may be used to improve their coffee farms, to help with food security, or for essential rehabilitation services. The fund also pays for artificial limbs, physical therapy, vocational training, small business grants, and other related services that have a direct and lasting impact on improving the lives of coffee farmers and their families.
Origins of the Coffeelands Trust
Dean Cycon, owner of Deans Beans, a successful coffee roasting company located in Central Massachusetts, and Michael Lundquist, Executive Director of the Polus Center, have worked together for many years in developing countries to promote social and economic justice for some of the world’s most vulnerable groups. Deans Beans and the Polus Center have partnered in the grassroots development projects that have created economic opportunity and rehabilitation services to coffee farmers throughout the World.
In 2005, Dean’s knowledge and experience with coffee farmers and their struggles and Michael’s work with landmine victims allowed them to make the connection between landmines, unexploded ordnances, or UXOs, and coffee. After careful review of the data they determined that landmines and UXOs were present in six of the ten top coffee producing countries in the world and that these deadly devices not only kill and maim coffee farmers and their families, but have a significant negative impact on coffee production and the quality of coffee.
The rehabilitation of landmine survivors requires more than simply providing an artificial limb. It is a process that involves helping victims re-gain mobility, develop new job skills and to once again live meaningful and productive lives within their communities. Deans Beans and the Polus Center have successfully assisted hundreds of survivors to receive mobility devices (artificial limbs and wheelchairs), and to return to work and community life. This focus on full rehabilitation has given people the ability to have hope for a better life for themselves and their families.
What is our philosophy?
The Coffeelands Trust gives the coffee industry, and individual citizens willing to make a commitment to helping victims of conflict, the opportunity to make a difference. The driving principle behind the Trust is simple: it exists to help people help themselves. Dean and Michael conceived of the Trust as a way for the coffee industry and coffee consumers to provide direct assistance to coffee farmers and their communities so they can address the aftermath of conflict and get back to doing what they are most passionate about – producing quality coffee for the world to enjoy.
Victims of conflict living and working in the coffeelands are the beneficiaries of the Coffeelands Trust. A landmine survivor is someone who has stepped on a landmine and suffered physical or psychological harm. The term victim of conflict encompasses not only survivors but also their families and entire communities affected by conflict.
How are funds distributed?
The Trust identifies individuals and communities in the coffeelands affected by conflict. Trust funds go to these individuals and communities to access a full range of rehabilitation services. The Trust works with an In Country Partner in each coffee producing area to provide funding for Emergency Services (transportation to hospitals, surgery, physical rehabilitation), distribute Micro-grants, and to track the progress of each person - acting as a conduit between the farming communities, individual farmers, and the Trust. Many of our In Country Partners are organizations that already are part of the coffee industry. They bring with them the experience of working with the farming communities, and understand what constitutes relevant support.
What countries does the Trust operate in?
One of the best places to grow high quality coffee is in the mountains, the same areas that in times of war are strategically significant as borders between territories, or as strongholds for opposing forces. Landmines are a particularly effective weapon in steep terrain where movement is limited to mountain passes and trails that traverse agricultural areas – the same areas where coffee farmers live and work.
Mine placement by combatants on the move is done quickly and few records are made of their exact locations, making landmine removal extremely difficult. Flooding and mudslides move landmines around, and rapid vegetation growth conceals them from view.
Several factors are taken into account in regards to where the funds will be distributed. They are earmarked for victims of conflict in coffee growing communities; there needs to be a partnership or infrastructure to ensure that beneficiaries receive the funds as intended and in alignment with Polus Center principles; and in most/ideal cases there is an ability to match funds, through financial or in-kind contributions. This proven public-private partnership model leverages donations while ensuring that individual coffee producers reap the most impactful and sustainable benefit based on their most pressing needs.
The Universal Impact of Landmines in the Coffeelands
The impact of landmines on coffee production are many:
- Good land often goes uncultivated
- Coffee trees in mined areas go unpicked
- Mined roads cannot be used to transport coffee to market
- People lose their homes and farms
- People live in constant fear of stepping on a landmine
- Landmine survivors and their families spend the rest of their lives dealing with the physical and emotional impact of landmine injuries
The Coffeelands Trust depends on donations from the coffee industry to continue its work supporting landmine victims in coffee producing regions. Many times these private donations can be matched by public funds from donors such as the U.S. Department of State Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement and the International Foundation.