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Monday, January 28, 2013

The Philippines & Coffee: Cashing In Without Selling Out

Last year many people came out to screenings of our documentary about Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines. If you never got a chance to see it, you can watch the documentary here.

Knowing exactly how difficult their circumstances are makes the strides they take forward into health and self-reliance all the more impressive. Lately we have been excited about the new venture that many of our friends in the Philippines are becoming involved with. We’re helping Indigenous farming families to enter the organic coffee market, and the prospects for success look very good.

It’s not uncommon for farmers in Mindanao, the Philippines, to grow coffee. What’s less common is for farmers to process the coffee they have produced. Because they have to sell the raw, green beans to a middleman, they miss out on the lion’s share of the profits. We’re helping these families to roast their own coffee according to the high standard of quality that the international market demands.

It’s going to make a big difference at the end of the day. What’s also wonderful is that they are learning how best to grow large yields of coffee using sustainable practices that will replenish their land and ensure its viability over the long-term. They do not want to make a profit today and lose everything tomorrow.

Congratulations to our intrepid friends in the Philippines. They are always willing to work hard for the sake of preserving their environment, their culture, and their children’s welfare. Organic coffee is going to help them to do all of this.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Dominican Republic: 50 Years of Friendship with the Poor

Last year some of our best friends celebrated their 50th anniversary.

We do what we do (help the poor to become self-reliant) through a network of friendships. This is how we’ve always done it. This is what works. We can’t sit at a desk in Canada and order poor communities around from thousands of miles away. We’ve always found local people and grassroots organizations who are integrated with the communities we want to help, and these local people are our hands and voices overseas, implementing the strategies that we all design together with the poor.

You could think of this arrangement as a three-legged stool: HOPE International Development Agency, grassroots/local organization, and community in need. All three ‘actors’ need to be working together in order to accomplish something lasting and appropriate.

One of our oldest friendships is with the organization ADESJO in the Dominican Republic. These extremely fine people have been working with the poorest of the poor in neglected villages in the Ocoa province for 50 years now!

We came alongside them in the early 80s and we’ve been working together with the Ocoan poor quite happily and successfully since then. Clean water, literacy, roads connecting poor farmers to markets, reforested hillsides: there is much to look back on with gratitude.

Father Lou Quinn, the great soul who directed ADESJO for decades, was a friend among friends. He is still greatly missed by us. He passed away in 2007 (see this Toronto Star article about the great man. We wish he had been here to celebrate the 50-year milestone with us.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Wars Over Water?

The Christian Science Monitor has a short but interesting article about water scarcity and conflict worth checking out.

Changes in climate, especially warmer temperatures globally, raise the specter of water shortages, truly one of the most fearsome potential challenges in the decades ahead.

Moises Velasquez-Manoff, the article’s author, observes that there is only one incident in recorded history of violent conflict between nations over the issue of water scarcity.

Generally problems between sovereign nation’s arising over citizens of a particular country not having enough water are resolved through treaties and trade agreements. But within countries, fighting over water — life’s most precious resource — is certainly not unheard of.

The Darfur conflict, perhaps the contemporary era’s most famously ugly quagmire, is tremendously fueled by water shortage issues.

But fighting over water isn’t strictly a climate change problem.

Villages that do not have direct access to clean water sources are well-acquainted with the kind of conflict that this kind of lack inspires. And it need not be physically violent in order to be stressful and tiresome.

Petrona Hernandez Urban, a young Honduran woman whose village recently built a clean water system with HOPE International Development Agency, says, “How nice to have clean water in the house and to be with my children! No more suffering, tiredness, and conflict between us women in the community to get water in the wells that don’t have sufficient water.”

Peace through development is something that we talk about often. Peace begins, of course, at the level of the household, the village, the community. There are already wars over insufficient water. Whether the future brings about conflicts on a larger scale over this issue is unknown. But we can surely work for peace for women like Petrona, and we can do this today.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Afghanistan: A Beacon in Jalalabad

Since 2006 HOPE International Development Agency has been helping small clinic to provide life-saving services to the poorest of the poor in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.  The clinic serves about 31,000 patients annually, providing mother and child health care, immunization, health education, family planning, laboratory services, medicines, and treatment for malnutrition. The clinic also educates the community about how to prevent the spread of disease.

This clinic is a powerful beacon in a place that can grow unimaginably dark when things go wrong. Which they often do, when your food supply is insecure, you lack education, and you are coping with infamous regional instabilities. The clinic represents a way to make sure hard times do not become impossible times.

In the picture (above right), some of Jalalabad’s children have assembled to say thank you to those who support the clinic through HOPE International Development Agency.