ROSWELL, Georgia — The concept of “paying it forward” has gained a following over the past few years, encouraging individuals to hand out unprecedented favors and reinforcing an overall faith in humanity. It is considered a small act of charity and kindness, a free favor for someone who just happened to be in line at the same time and place as you. One company, Land of a Thousand Hills, is taking it a step further and cultivating a mission that is working towards alleviating global poverty through something most Americans and Europeans consume every day – coffee.
Land of a Thousand Hills centers all of its projects around the motto, “Drink Coffee. Do Good.” The organization was founded by Jonathan Golden, who was determined to rebuild broken communities following the Rwandan genocide. His goal was to provide fair wages to coffee farmers around the country, ultimately creating opportunities for them to live more safely and comfortably. Land of a Thousand Hills is an organization centered around the belief that coffee can function as an opportunity to “help people and champion dignity.”
Land of a Thousand Hills supports the economic growth of the communities in Africa. They source coffee beans directly from Rwandan farmers and distribute them to their locations throughout Atlanta, Virginia, Florida, Texas and Massachusetts. The company has also partnered with a nonprofit called the Do Good Initiative, an organization that works to improve conditions in Rwanda through a variety of sectors, such as health, education and nutrition.
More than 26 million individuals work in coffee plantations around the world, and 250 million people rely directly on coffee production for their continued livelihood. Today, less than 10 percent of the final sale price of coffee returns to the growers while billions of dollars are given back to investors. Land of a Thousand Hills is not only raising public awareness on the topic but also taking action and seeking change.
Do Good Health
Kivu and Ruli are two small communities in Rwanda, the populations of which depend almost exclusively on coffee production. The areas are highly secluded and, therefore, cut off from primary forms of transportation. On average, individuals need to walk between six hours and two days just to reach a medical institution.
According to data collected among community members and coffee farmers in the region, 89 percent of men have never had a prostate exam and 96 percent of women have never visited an OBGYN for an exam. When asked why they had never done this, 92 percent said transportation was unavailable, 88 percent said the distance was too far and 83 percent attributed it to provider availability. Not one person said it was due to fear.
With the approval of the Ministry of Health, Land of a Thousand Hills has been working to establish Health Clinics in more central parts of the Kivu and Ruli. In doing so, more than 10,000 farmers will gain access to a number of healthcare services including health education, preventative medicine, diagnostic medicine, disease and injury management and labor and delivery services. The project is currently in phase two of three and has begun the process of staffing, stocking and educating professionals to work in the facilities. The grand opening is set for July 2019.
The Nziza Collective
The average annual household income in Rwanda is $13,485. In homes where there is only a single female provider, the income is significantly lower. In 2019, Land of a Thousand Hills began The Nziza Collective to help bring together women in this position. Volunteers traveled to Rwanda and heard stories of emotional and physical abuse against women, with 34 percent of women reporting physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime and 21 percent in the last 12 months.
Despite the abuse, volunteers found that the female workers were the ones harvesting the coffee with the absolute highest caliber. It was so high-quality that it was set aside as limited edition coffee and is now sold on the Land of a Thousand Hills website. Selling the coffee harvested by these women has provided them a source of sustainable income.
The Nziza Collective goes beyond that though, intending to provide women with the skills needed to support and protect themselves in more than one way. The women have requested textiles and education on sewing weave baskets. The goal of the Collective is to provide sewing machines, basket-weaving supplies and literacy classes to all 200 women. The project is driven by 100 percent donations. They are calling for donations in a number of subcategories, such as for counseling, training and supplies. So far, they have collected $3,360 of their $12,000 goal.
Land of a Thousand Hills has had success over the past few years and is now running their sixth project since being established. Much of its impact has come from taking action in communities throughout Rwanda, hearing people’s stories there and observing how inadequate wages for coffee farmers take an immense toll on families livelihoods. They have found a viable method of bringing those daily struggles back to the U.S. to spread awareness and garner support, forging a connection between developed and developing nations.
– Anna Lagattuta