Denise Henderson is the Manager of Corporate and Foundation Relations at Heifer International. Below, she writes about her recent experiences visiting Heifer projects:
"For several years through a partnership with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. (GMCR), Heifer International has been committed to fighting hunger and seasonal poverty in coffee growing areas, most notably in Mexico and Central and South America.
Through its work, Heifer conducts agriculture and livestock programs that enable farmers to achieve food security, improve yields and generate revenue by diversifying crop and animal production. Heifer applies improved farming techniques and helps farmers bring products to market through its community-based approach.
In the past few months, I have had the opportunity to see the partnership between Heifer and GMCR in action, both in the field and here in the United States.
In February, I traveled to Honduras with a group of Heifer International staff. While visiting coffee farmers in Marcala, our group observed a distinct difference between families who had the good fortune of participating in a Heifer program designed to address food security and income, and those who didn’t. The families participating in the Heifer projects we visited were healthy and well fed.
In contrast, it was difficult to bear the sight of visibly undernourished residents and their animals that grazed on patches of grass wherever available…usually on the side of a narrow, crooked road with lots of cars and trucks going by. We were alarmed when our driver screeched to a stop to prevent hitting a cow stopped in the road.
While we were able to see only a few coffee farmers, it was apparent the great struggles of many who provide one of our greatest pleasures – a good cup of coffee - must experience each year. I’m proud to be part of the Heifer-GMCR partnership working to end seasonal hunger and poverty in this part of the world.
In April, I was part of a delegation of Heifer International representatives who attended the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) event in Portland, OR.
While at SCAA, we were awestruck by the collaboration beginning to form. Global non-government organizations are beginning to consider collective impact and what it might look like to work together. Competing companies are joining forces to help their coffee producers, for the good of their farmers and their coffee supply chain. Individual agendas are being abandoned in favor of a collective approach to improve hunger and poverty during “the thin months.” It seemed that all are beginning to understand that there won’t be great coffee if there are no coffee growers.
We at Heifer are very happy to be part of the solution of addressing hunger in the coffeelands, and we look forward to our continuing relationship with those in the coffee industry who share the same ideals."