Coffee Industry Develops New Starting Point in Fight Against Poverty
Irvine, CA - March 28, 2013 - “There’s no justifiable reason for coffee smallholders to suffer in poverty. Quality coffee is in high demand, and thanks to large-scale awareness campaigns on the plight of smallholders in coffee, consumers are willing to pay a premium if they believe it’ll make a difference. Couple demand with good will and you’d expect to find thriving smallholder communities. Yet, 10 million smallholders remain stuck at the bottom of the pyramid,” stated Stephan Erkelens, President, AXIOM Coffee Ventures, LLC.
AXIOM Coffee Ventures, LLC, as its name implies, offers a promising starting point for smallholder coffee farmers, coffee industry, mission based organizations, and social investors to collaborate on market based solutions. Operating on an open source policy, AXIOM shares networks and knowledge so stakeholders can plug into its field tested approach to transforming smallholder communities from subsistence living to economically sustainable farming enterprises.
Coffee is a complex $80 billion industry, but as Kristen Seaver, Director of Sustainability, Coffee America (USA) Corporation suggests, “It starts with a relationship. We care about the farmers who grow the coffee we’ve been purchasing since 1992. That’s why we've partnered with AXIOM; they offer a holistic, community-based solution that works and is economically sustainable.”
AXIOM’s open source practice is also attracting small to medium sized coffee related businesses. “We’re thankful for Axiom's networks and expertise in the coffee industry. They enabled us to launch and sustain our business while funding water and shelter projects for the smallholders we work with in Honduras,” stated Brian Masters, Director of Business, Hope Coffee. "Giving back is one of the core values of Crimson Cup, so partnering with AXIOM is a natural fit. AXIOM has helped us to deepen our relationship with smallholders and create opportunities to touch their lives in meaningful ways," added Greg Ubert, Founder & CEO, Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea.
Erkelens, who traces his coffee roots back to the 1930's to his grandfather’s Guatemalan coffee business, has worked in all sectors of the industry, as well as leading Growers First, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering smallholders. “I’m not surprised that some of my industry associates are thinking beyond profits. Like me, they know it’s not about looking for opportunities to make a difference, we already know how to do that. It’s about our responsibility to make a difference in our industry; it’s about doing right by the consumer who wants their purchase to make a real difference, doing right by the smallholders who are equal partners in this endeavor,” stated Erkelens.
While coffee industry participation is critical, Glenn Parrish, Senior Vice President, AXIOM Coffee Ventures, LLC, points out, “Building and sustaining large-scale social change also requires bold acts of giving. Social investors are needed to fund innovation for deep, sustainable impact; mission based organizations are essential to breaking barriers that prevent market mechanisms from working.”
Parrish, who’s been working in philanthropy for 25 years says, “Social investors are looking for the highest leverage opportunities for change. What makes AXIOM a rare and attractive opportunity is the ability to position ourselves at the intersection of industry, NGOs and smallholders, enabling us to bridge all stakeholders.”
John McKay, Director of SAJE Foundation shares this observation, “The focus is no longer on which charity represents the most worthy cause, it’s about rewarding and promoting investable innovations. I’ve personally witnessed the transformational outcomes of what AXIOM rightly calls its ‘farmer-friendly’ approach and I’m proud to be among its founding investors.”
Engaged at government, regional and community levels, AXIOM Coffee Ventures, LLC is already at work in more than 30 smallholder communities in Honduras and Mexico, with plans to expand its programs into Guatemala and Nicaragua this summer.