I don’t like coffee, but I do like this…

I have a secret – I’m not a coffee drinker.

Despite months of working on LWR’s coffee programming in Asia—including Temu Kupi, an international coffee forum LWR hosted with Green Mountain Coffee and Fair Trade USA—I got away without drinking any coffee.  It’s not that I don’t support the farmers who participate in our programs or the partnerships LWR is building with everyone from producers to international coffee corporations – it’s just…I don’t like the taste!

While my secret is out on coffee, I also want to share another secret – I love chocolate.

This is not as much of a secret as anyone who knows me knows that there is not a type of chocolate that I don’t like.  So, several months ago when LWR launched Ground Up: The Lutheran World Relief Coffee and Cocoa Initiative, I was very excited to get more involved in our programming around cocoa.

While LWR has a number of cocoa projects around the world, particularly in Latin America, the organization is in the process of expanding our cocoa work in Asia.

Helping Farmers in the Philippines

Currently, working with communities in the Philippines that are vulnerable to the impacts of typhoons, flooding and landslides, LWR is partnering with the Cacao Industry Development Association of Mindanao to increase the income of 930 farmers—reaching approximately 4,650 people—whose livelihoods were affected by 2012’s Typhoon Bopha.

In the past, these farmers were primarily dependent on traditional methods of coconut and banana farming, but all of this changed when Typhoon Bopha hit.

Now, with support from LWR, farmers are adopting diversified cacao-based farming systems, learning new on-farm skills in cacao-based farming and adopting improved post-harvest handling and management techniques to receive higher prices for their crops.

Sharing our expertise and learning from others

In addition to programming, LWR is building its reputation as a leader in both coffee and cocoa programming internationally. In May, LWR’s country directors for the Philippines and Indonesia attended an international cocoa conference in Indonesia where regional players in cocoa gathered to discuss how to empower smallholder producers for a sustainable cocoa industry. Femia Baldeo from LWR Philippines and Paul Drossou from LWR Indonesia represented LWR at the event and shared information with those working in cocoa throughout the region about LWR’s expanding work in cocoa in the region.

Nande Grace stands in front of cocoa drying facility
Nande Grace is a cocoa farmer in Laja, Indonesia. Here, she shows off the cocoa drying facility that LWR helped her community build.

Following the conference, I wanted to share some reflections from Femia on the future of cocoa production for farmers that LWR is supporting in the Philippines and around the world:

“To create a better life for cocoa farmers, there’s a need to invest in the capacity building of these farmers – not only in cocoa production but also in empowering the farmers to be a part of a sustainable cocoa industry for their country as a whole.

Just as in other regions where LWR works, cocoa production has a great income potential for farmers living in poverty in the Philippines and throughout Asia. With the increasing demand for cocoa worldwide, production from LWR-supported cocoa farmers in the Philippines can help meet this need.”

While coffee may not be my beverage of choice, I am excited to share with you the work that LWR is doing with both cocoa and coffee farmers around the world.  Using expertise developed over decades, LWR brings a unique perspective and skill set the international cocoa and coffee conversation as we support sustainable coffee and cocoa production that also meets farmers’ needs. Through our work, LWR is addressing market barriers, limited access to credit, lack of technical skills and other difficulties small-scale farmers face.

With your help, we are currently reaching more than 42,000 farmers directly through our coffee and cocoa programming and, in the coming months and years, we hope to reach thousands more.

Now that I’ve shared my secret coffee and cocoa secrets, what are yours?

Ground Up: The LWR Coffee and Cocoa Initiative
The global coffee and cocoa markets are worth more than $175 billion per year combined. But smallholder producers capture just a fraction of that value. With expertise developed over decades, LWR brings a unique perspective and skill set to improve producers’ lives, from the ground up.

Read more about Ground Up: The LWR coffee and cocoa initiative.