How coffee became a tool for peace
A story of one business leader’s mission for peace in the Philippines
A van visits farmers in some of the most dangerous rural areas in the Southern part of the Philippines, passing through military check-points in order to visit a network of farmers. The farmers in this network are divided into groups that have traditionally been in conflict with one another. Groups that have fought for decades, groups that have rarely been able to see eye to eye. What they do have in common, however, is that they all want peace.
The early days
“It was a big challenge to make people understand peace in a context where hunger is present, no clean water, no permanent shelter, and no future to look forward to, because of constant conflict or war,” says Felicitas “Joji” Bautista Pantoja. She is the CEO of Coffee for Peace, and is a peace advocate and mediator.
In the early days of her career, Pantoja had difficulties getting opposing groups to put down their weapons and their threats. As she kept trying, she noticed that “when there is coffee served, there is dialogue, and when there is dialogue, there is no time to kill each other, but just talking.”
Coffee for Peace was the result. From then on out, the social enterprise would commit to achieve justice and peace in their community through inclusive development. At the same time, their commitment to respecting and preserving the environment is prevalent. To help mitigate soil erosion, large tree varieties are planted on the mountainsides.
“Businesses are the most powerful and influential players. Businesses ought to be mindful of the responsibility to bring economic-ecological justice and harmony among human societies.” — Felicitas Pantoja
The farmers and communities she works with supply coffee cherries and coffee beans to Coffee for Peace. Receiving a fair price in the marketplace for their goods lightens burdens and increases profits for the farmers, and opens doors for entire families.
To date, Coffee for Peace has assisted 500 conflict-affected farmers to receive certification in Good Agricultural Practices for coffee farming. Modern, sustainable farming practices are at the core of training. Pantoja also increased the number of farmers in the company’s supply chain, tripling their incomes. The company has enabled over 880 farmers to escape poverty and build their coffee production capacity.
Working together for peace and for profit
Pantoja has dedicated her career to building peace in conflict zones and improving the lives of marginalised groups. She does this by providing education and tools to farmers. This steadily builds more and more economic stability for the farmers in their network.
Everyone is involved and committed to community harmony. “The training I received on roasting coffee was useful because it helped me earn more,” says local farmer Marivic Dubria. “Without assistance from Coffee for Peace, we would not be able to raise the quality of our coffee.”
Receiving long-deserved recognition
Pantoja was one of three Oslo Business for Peace Award winners for 2020. She and her team have built an inspiring social enterprise that empowers marginalised groups from different backgrounds, bringing these groups together while contributing to the sustainable development of the land. She won the Award based on her ability to demonstrate the significant impact that business can have when used as a vehicle for peace.
“I feel so happy receiving this award. It is a stamped mark of what we do and it is a great privilege to be awarded as a business that is making profit and that is promoting peace,” says Pantoja.
To read more about Pantoja and the Award, click here.