Nepal is commonly thought of as tea country. And for good reason, they do a great job in that area. The same can be true of their coffee. Of the key components of high quality, arabica coffee cultivation, Nepal has the right elevation, cooler temperatures, access to clean water, and rich soil - the same soil that nurtures their tea shrubs.
Inspired by this potential, and moved by dire Nepalese condition after the devastating 8 magnitude earthquake that killed 8,000, injured over 20,000 and destroyed the homes and livelihoods of many more, Ascension got involved. Since April 2015, we have been working Parshu Dahal and a group of new coffee farmers in northern Nepal, assisting them in developing better processing methods to improve product quality and teaching them strategic business practices to profit in the industry.
We are encouraged to see so many new jobs created at a critical time for the country and are excited this to deepen our involvement there within and beyond coffee.
Whenever possible, Ascension pursues direct trade relationships with the coffee farmers that provide our beans. We are excited to have found farmers in Papua New Guinea whose quality is leading the country and who are eager to be part of the spillover effects of a direct trade partnership. We provide resources and tips for improving coffee quality as needed and are also to pay a much higher price to the farmer by eliminating intermediary groups that use high volume negotiations to squeeze the price per pound that the farmers earn.
In October 2015, Ascension stumbled on a coffee producing gem in Ribeirao Preto, Brazil. With the high quality, nutty, chocolaty coffees coming out of the country, we were excited by the prospect of finding a directly sourced bean that would help achieve the target profile of our Levitate and Central brews as well as stand strongly alone as a single origin pour over. On a trip with this goal, Russell met one farmer with exceptional growing and processing practices, tasted his coffee, was blown away, purchased the whole farm, and then got to work with a group of 8 farmers looking to also sell directly to international markets, specifically the US and the UK.
Ascension does not have the needed demand levels to purchase coffee from all of these farmers, and we are committed to our partner in Ribeirao Preto (who has since submitted his coffee to the national Cup of Excellence competition and placed 17th), but our hope is to be a positive impact on every community we enter, not solely every farm we work with. As we continue our work in Brazil, we hope to help the farmers access buyers directly and thus make more money than selling to intermediaries or the commodity market would afford.
In 2012 we started working with the Cyimbili rehabiliation project, with the goal to bring back the coffee farm left to waste after the war, into a high quality profitable, sustainable farm, exporting coffee internationally. Working with the ALARM organization, we were able to achieve the project's goal by 2015 with the delivery of 11,000lbs of coffee to our Roastery in Dallas.
Our work in Rwanda introduced us to NAEB (National Agricultural Export Board) and we now represent the presentation of Rwanda Coffee in the United States at SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) Expo every year. Ascension Coffee Rwanda LTD is a licensed exporter and continues to support Rwandan Farmers by exporting Rwandan Coffee to the US for our use as well as other US Roasters.
South Sudan is barely older than Ascension. In fact, did you know that it is the newest country in the world, gaining independence from Sudan in July, 2011 after decades of ethnic tension and civil war that left their communities and territories broken. In 2014, we were approached by Water Is Basic, a non-profit helping build water wells and ensure access to clean water in some of the most remote regions of the work, to consider operating some agriculture and coffee cultivation workshops with struggling and aspiring Sudanese coffee farmers in a small county called Morobo. After googling to confirm Sudan even grew coffee, we learned that it had, in fact, once had a booming industry. With coffee first having been discovered in Yemen and with Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, also in the neighborhood, it makes sense. But we don’t drink much Sudanese coffee because they have been consumed by the havoc happening on their soil and thus not able to invest much in what is growing in it.
With freedom and a new nation in place, South Sudan can focus on building their economy. Coffee is a great place to start. And Ascension feels very fortunate to have the opportunity to develop an industry we love and understand alongside our Sudanese partners. Since 2014, we have traveled to South Sudan a few times to train more farmers and develop systems to ensure the sustainability of our efforts.
But there is a long way to go for the people of Morobo. Coffee and enterprise potential is but one piece of a much bigger puzzle, one where some of the most fundamental pieces are missing: clean water, protein rich food, medical care, education. The more we share the Morobo story, the more friends, customers, and organizations want to get involved. We may not be medical experts, water experts, or aquaponics experts. But we know people who are. We are coffee experts. We are excited about continuing our involvement as such and pulling more interested, compassionate partners into our holistic community development effort in Moboro, South Sudan, and hopefully many more post-crisis countries around the world.