Polus Center For Social & Economic Development, Inc.
Home The Coffelands Trust
The Trust identifies 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 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 for “death train” victims in Tapachula, Mexico, assisted people with disabilities to create small businesses in Nicaragua, and worked together to address basic nutritional needs and helped to combat social stigma for people with leprosy in Ethiopia. Dean and Michael have traveled together to assess first-hand what death train victims, people with leprosy and coffee farmers have to say about the daily struggles for basic survival that they, their families and their communities face.
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.
While Princess Diana and the Ottawa Treaty focused the world’s attention on the need to address the landmine issue; the majority of money and resources are directed toward mine removal and mine risk education; very little support is being allocated to direct victim assistance. 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.
The United States and other donor nations have made substantial progress in the areas of landmine removal and mine risk education, but resources for direct victim assistance have been minimal and will likely continue to be. Because of the lack of resources for rehabilitation services many landmine survivors are facing a very uncertain future. The Coffeelands Trust was created to provide the resources needed to support people living in coffee producing communities who have been impacted by landmines and other weapons of war.
What is the philosophy behind the Coffeelands Trust?
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 distribute Micro-grants and Gifts, to provide funding for Emergency Services (transportation to hospitals, surgery, physical rehabilitation), to track the progress of each person, and to be 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.
The partnership with the Colombian Coffee Federation (FNC) provides technical expertise from agronomists who work with coffee growers to help them increase their yields and quality.
Getting products to beneficiaries in very remote rural areas is a challenge. In Colombia, they often use local buses “Chifas” to transport everything from fertilizer and machinery to refrigerators. Many times the farms are hours from town along rocky mountainous roads.
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. In Nicaragua and Honduras some of the fiercest fighting took place in the central and northern highlands along the Nicaraguan-Honduran border. As combatants from both sides moved back and forth through the mountain passes, they routinely placed landmines to block troop movements, to disrupt supply lines, and to protect radio transmission towers.
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.
After years of de-mining efforts, many areas of Nicaragua and Honduras are now classified as mine-free, but it is impossible to know for certain that every single mine has been located and removed. We began work in these particular coffee areas because we already had working partnerships with several organizations there, and could quickly and efficiently implement funding.
Polus Center takes a holistic approach to supporting victims. In addition to some physical rehabilitation services, this landmine survivor in northern Nicaragua was looking for ways to improve and diversify his farm, receiving cattle and technical assistance on organic growing techniques. His daughter received a scholarship to study veterinary medicine.
In 2008 we began a longstanding partnership with the FNC, or Colombian Coffee Federation, which has made a tremendous impact for people living in coffee communities throughout Colombia, including Narino, Caldes, and Antioquia.
Colombia, the second largest exporter of coffee in the Western Hemisphere, is the only country in the Western Hemisphere where landmines are still being laid. It has the third highest rate of landmine victims in the world and represents one of the only places where the problem is getting worse. In four years, the level of mine incidents doubled, from 627 in 2002 to 1,110 in 2005. Colombian coffee farms covers 800,000 hectares of cultivated land, and the Colombian coffee industry supports 500,000 farmers. Guerilla and paramilitary groups intentionally use landmines to displace citizens by mining villages and farms and then mining houses and roads to prevent their return. While landmines are a persistent problem throughout Colombia, they are particularly concentrated in the mountainous coffee areas. 23% of Colombia’s mine related incidents have occurred in Antioquia, the heart of Colombia’s coffee growing region.
For several years we worked in the highlands of Peru through the generous support of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (now Kuerig Green Mountain). We have received generous donation offers from coffee companies in Southeast Asia, and we are actively pursuing public funds or contributions from other donors to match these opportunities.
Nerio was blinded by a landmine planted along the powerlines in Peru, and was living in a dark space with no floors or sanitary facilities. He received new sewing equipment to expand his handicraft business, and an addition and facilities were added to his basement home, which allowed family members to move in and help address his issues of isolation and depression.
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 road to market for many small hold coffee farmers is long and often unsafe, even before landmines are laid. When there is a documented case or even fear of explosives in a coffee field or along the road, crops will go unpicked and to waste.
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 good 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 or from foundations like the International Foundation. Click here to contribute to the Coffeelands Trust.
Founded in 1979, Polus Center for Social & Economic Development, Inc. has more than 35 years’ experience designing human service programs and promoting new opportunities... READ MORE.
The Polus Center for Social and Economic Development, Inc.
PO Box 773,
6 North Main Street
Petersham, MA 01366 USA
USA. +1 (978) 368-1550
COL. +57 (313) 2088302