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Kenco Coffee vs Gangs

This is the second in our series about sustainability and social responsibility in the coffee industry. In our previous blog, we raised the question “is sustainability and social responsibility more than just PR?” We think that this project run by Kenco will surprise you.

Kenco Coffee vs Gangs

Last year, Kenco launched Coffee vs Gangs — a pilot project to provide young people in Honduras with the opportunity to escape the gangs that blight Honduran society and train as coffee farmers.

You may have seen the advertisements on TV, but it’s only when you delve into the press and social media updates that you realise just what’s being achieved. This is not just a PR exercise designed to tick Kenco’s social responsibility box.

Read more here and you will see that this is a truly brave project, which is changing lives by giving skills and opportunities in the coffee industry to carefully selected young people. Many were at risk of falling into a life of gangs, drugs and crime or falling victim to crime, either in Honduras or through attempts to migrate to the US.

Coffee in Honduras

Coffee accounts for 42 per cent of all agricultural exports in Honduras, and Jacobs Douwe Egberts, owner of Kenco, is the biggest coffee buyer from the country, accounting for 30 per cent of the coffee exported each year.

There are 114,000 coffee farmers in Honduras. Kenco is keen to develop the communities and provide alternatives to gang life through coffee. One of the causes of the gang problem is a lack of opportunity. Coffee vs Gangs will equip young people with the skills and support to become successful future coffee entrepreneurs.

The first coffee students

The first intake of twenty young people were selected, drawn from the inner city and rural communities. Focus groups, individual interviews and family interviews were part of the process, with community leaders playing a part. For the next year they lived and worked on a pilot farm at the Kenco Coffee School, where their education extended beyond learning how to grow coffee.

Hope for the future

Recently, the Honduran coffee industry has strengthened and grown. It’s one of the biggest industries in the country now, providing a high-quality coffee product to customers all over the world. It’s a sustainable industry but one that many believes needs modernising. In a small way Kenco are leading by example in that regard by introducing young business people to coffee farming. Now in its second year, the Kenco Coffee Vs Gangs project is thriving, its first graduates are building futures for themselves, and its second intake of students is already full of ambition. Although not widely talked about, it’s fair to assume that the ripple effect from the success of the first twenty students will have a significant impact on the wider community, improving the economic and social prospects for extended family members and beyond. This effect will grow exponentially with each successful cohort.

The first graduates

Projects to improve the lives of your people are frequently documented. Typically, participants will have been through extremely traumatic experiences, leaving them with difficulty in forming relationships, concentrating and committing. The success rate of such projects can be low, and scepticism can be high. So how has it been for the first intake at the Kenco Coffee School? What was the success rate, bearing in mind these young people were selected from a perilous lifestyle surrounded by fear and violence? Some of their work was field-based, but they were also required to attend classroom business studies, something that some of them found really difficult.

Well the news is heart-warming. The cohort must have displayed the most incredible determination to succeed because out of the twenty young people who started the course, nineteen successfully completed it. What a fantastic outcome!

We would urge you to follow this project on Facebook and online at The Telegraph and The Irish Times where you can read much more about the project and the graduates.

In our opinion, Coffee vs Gangs is definitely more than just a PR story.

Photo Credit: The Telegraph
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