The Solution is Coffee

We drive two hours outside a busy tourist town in South East Asia, climbing consistently, and finally stop in a village. Led by one of the village elders, we walk further up the mountain into the dense forest. He pauses and proudly points out his coffee seedlings growing in the shade of the trees. He tells us how he is following the planting directions regarding spacing and feeding, and how food and animal waste is being collected for fertiliser. Walking a little further, we see three men clearing weeds from the forest floor in the hope that the coffee company will choose them for some of next year’s seedling allocation. A lot of excitement has been generated in this village by the sustainable income that farmers now have from selling their carefully tended coffee cherries to the coffee company that I work with. 

Many in these highland areas have traditionally earned only a small and unstable livelihood from farming. This has led them to clear the forests as a temporary source of income, making way for other crops they have been told will make them lots of money, particularly if they use chemicals. The majority of people in these areas do not know the Creator of the beautiful environment that they live in. 

These issues inspired the company’s founder to seek a solution – coffee. More precisely, organic, shade-grown, specialty coffee. Coffee could be a source of sustainable income and help the people take care of the environment that God has created. Expats and local Christians are rarely allowed to visit this part of the country, but doing this work means highland people have the opportunity to meet people who have a different worldview. 

The coffee company has built up respect during their 14 years of working with the villages. Last year we gave out 60,000 seedlings to new farmers in some of the 25+ villages that we now work with. We also had requests for more than 20,000 extra seedlings from new farmers or current farmers wanting to increase their crop. This reveals great trust in the company as the coffee tree takes more than four years of cultivation before it yields its first sellable fruit. 

This trust has been earned by the work of the company’s coffee promoters who walk alongside more than 850 farmers. These local Christians visit the villages many times a year, teaching farmers how to grow specialty coffee in the forest without chemicals, and how to cultivate the trees to yield fruit that will earn high prices. They also share with all who are interested about the Creator whose creation they are tending. It’s these ‘kingdom gardeners’ who are progressing the heart of the business to give highland people the opportunity to know more about the Creator who loves them.  This profit-for-purpose business is now self-sufficient and offers profit sharing with its workers while investing the remaining profits into serving more highland communities. With demand for the company’s coffee outstripping supply, the Father continues to present more and more opportunities to be kingdom gardeners among some of the least-reached peoples of South East Asia.