Update from IBD: Sustainable Harvest, Mexico

The following entry was posted by Thad Raczkowski on behalf of the Sustainable Harvest IBD Team- Rakesh Apte, Vaibhav Bhatnagar, Gilad Bonjack and Ferderic Wagner.

It is only appropriate that we are writing this blog entry over a cup of coffee. Without wanting to sound too sadistic: this cup is the end of the life journey of the coffee bean, a journey that started some 3000 miles away in a small community in the Mexican State of Veracruz.

Through our work with Sustainable Harvest, a Portland-based importer of speciality coffee, we were fortunate to witness and take part in the coffee bean’s journey from the very beginning. All the way from planting new seedlings, to picking the red coffee cherries, to processing cherries to become green beans, to roasting the green beans, to making the cup of coffee in my kitchen some 5 minutes ago.

But to make this quite epic journey reality (and to the delight of the die-hard business school student in our group), one ingredient is more important than any other: money. During our time in Mexico we worked with two coffee cooperatives, trying to figure out how they could get more of the stuff. Money is so important as the farmers have to pay their workers, feed their families. So when then bring their harvested coffee to the cooperative, the coop has to pay them there and then. And only when the coffee has been processed and sold to the importer some 3 months down the road does the money come back to the cooperative. So getting loans is absolutely vital. And while our work produced a few strategies on how the cooperative could strengthen its financial foothold, we will have to wait until next harvest to see the impact of our work.

In the mean-time we can think back to the extraordinary warmth and hospitality we were afforded by our hosts. And it is with every sip of coffee we’ll drink from here on in, that some of these experiences will come back to us.

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