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August 15-22, 2008
In August 2008 Just Coffee took its third delegation to Timor-Leste. This time our delegation was made up of myself, Hector Hill who is an Australian born botanist and Permaculturist who has lived and worked in Timor-Leste for more than 9 years and presently works as a professional translator and interpreter, Kevin Bain who is the coffee sales coordinator with the Friends of Same group that works to link the town of Boroondara, Australia with the town of Same, East Timor, and a remarkable family from Aberdeen, South Dakota, USA that owns the Red Rooster Coffee House supplied by coffee roasted by Just Coffee, Dan and Kileen Cleeberg with their mother Arlene.
Our group took this delegation opportunity to again learn as much as we could about this young country and its long history of colonization by the Portuguese, Japanese, and Indonesians as well as tried to grasp the reasons for its 2006 conflict and the trouble since that time as the country meandered through its first election since independence, a few rebel leaders, and of course the ever present international community vying for what ever it can get from this oil and coffee rich country. The subject motivating this delegation was coffee, and what makes fair trade fair. Just like in the rest of the world, this small country's largest produced product after oil is coffee and more people sustain themselves from this income than from anything else. And so, as a group we once again endeavored to find out why the coffee industry in Timor-Leste is so un-fair to its producers, here in the poorest country in the world.
Together we stayed in Timor-Leste’s capital, Dili, and took overnight trips into the difficult to traverse surrounding mountains. We all stayed at my house in Dili which allowed for us to balance the trip by preparing and eating some meals at home, sharing what is commonly eaten by Timorese people by eating in the homes of of our Timorese friends, and also getting out on the town in Dili for a taste of some Indonesian, Australian, and Portuguese cuisine. It also allowed for us to take advantage of the peace and tranquility of the lovely garden at our house which is now the home to many edible plants such as banana, papaya, coconut, star fruit, pomegranates, pineapple, peppers, pumpkins, cucumbers, ginger, lemongrass, basil, vanilla, and even a few coffee trees, amongst many other things.
Our time in Dili was spent visiting the National Resistance Museum and other locations of historical importance as well as at the beaches around Dili. We visited the local artisans market as well as the various fruit and vegetable markets in town and toured Arte Moris and Bibi Bulak, the local free art school and theatre group.
In Dili our delegation met with La’o Hamutuk, the Timor-Leste Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis, an NGO that reports on the principal international institutions present in Timor-Leste as they relate to the physical, economic, and social reconstruction and development of the country. We met with Permatil, an organization that works in rural areas of East Timor to promote the techniques of Permaculture by teaching local farmers how to work sustainably with natural ecosystems, domestic animals, integrated subsistence and commercial agriculture, as well as how to better manage their land and water resources. We of course once again tried to meet with Cooperativa Café Timor (CCT), the producer group run by National Cooperatives Business Association (NCBA) that has been funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that prides themselves on being the largest cooperative in the world, what ever that means. But, we were unfortunately not able to meet with CCT as they do not generally welcome visitors to their operations. Cooperative Coffees continues to purchase 'Fair Trade' coffee from CCT. Lucky for us, Timorcorps, a company that purchases coffee and processes and prepares coffee for export generously and openly welcomed our group in to see their facilities and tour their operations. Here we were able to lean about and actually see the various steps of how coffee cherries are processed into green bean.
Our delegation also met with directors of local Timorese NGO, Fundasaun Hari'i Au Metan. This organization whose name means Foundation to Raise Up the Black Bamboo was started in 2000 and has done a variety of projects in Timor-Leste such as work with street prostitutes, HIV and AIDS testing, starting a bamboo and rattan furniture making business which continues to operate independently, hand woven palm basket making and exportation, and much more. Here in Timor-Leste Fundasaun Hari'i Au Metan sponsors and works on the Gardeners of Eden East Timor Seed Project.
Outside of Dili we traveled to the mountain city of Maubisse and the surrounding coffee lands in the district of Ainaro. This trip focused on the grass-roots coffee production that Fundasaun Hari’i Au Metan has been working on in Maubisse (& Laclubar) as well as visiting the gardens that have been built and monitoring the progress that has been made up until that time by those participating in the Gardeners of Eden East Timor Seed Project. The Project has expanded from a one-woman gardener to more than nine small extended family organic gardens that are not only growing new varieties of foods for consumption but are also selling them in local markets, bringing them to Dili to sell to restaurants, and learning important seed saving techniques.
Dan Cleeberg filmed much of our delegation with plans for creating a documentary about the Gardeners of Eden Seed Project after his return to the USA. Dan was also kind enough to keep a blog for the Aberdeen American News throughout the delegation, so please check it out.
For more information or to sign-up for a delegation, please contact Just Coffee's Delegation Coordinator Colleen Coy at: colleen (at) justcoffee (dot) coop. Thank you for your continued interest and support!