Cultural Preservation, Environmental Stewardship, & Economic Livelihood Diversity are the cornerstones of JCFC sustainability.
The Bolaven Plateau contains more than four different ethnic groups, chiefly the Jeru, Lao, Souay, and Khmu people. As such, there are a myriad of important cultural practices, belief systems, and heritage which is unique to each. This diversity is something which does not divide the communities, but weaves an ever more intricate pattern of humanity which adds to the beautiful complexity that is life.
As such, and as the cooperative develops, it is of prime importance to ensure that each cultural aspect is in line with any changes that are proposed. Consequently, all of Jhai Coffee House and Filanthrope's coffee and development programs are tailored to respect the rights of each individual community's cultural heritage and the right of self-determination.
Historically, the people of the Bolaven Plateau were predominantly known to practice animist beliefs. They believed the soil, plants, and animals had spirits which deserved to be protected. With the advent of cash cropping and industrialized agriculture, these beliefs were often secondary to the notion of development and progress. Only now are we rediscovering techniques and methodologies to produce coffee in a more ecologically sustainable way. As such, the cooperative understands and desires to move forward with coffee production based on principles of harmony with the native forests and their land.
These deeply held beliefs are at the forefront of the reason why Filanthrope and Jhai Coffee House are actively teaching and sharing techniques new and old which allow for coffee to be grown in reforested, no-waste, no-chemical methods. These efforts allow for coffee farms to preserve their native forests, create living soil, and provide better coffee, and more nutritious food to eat.
Economic livelihood diversity
Coffee is 95% of the income of coffee farming families. As the coffee harvest only occurs one time per year, this means that families must try to stretch out their income over the years. Not only is this a struggle for any family to manage, but the income from even the best of coffees is only enough to survive, not thrive.
A common misconception is the the wastes from coffee production (i.e. coffee pulp, coffee wastewater, etc.) are just that: wastes. As a waste, it is only a cost to the environment and a cost to “get rid” of the waste. This is the wrong direction.
In 2017, the JCFC has begun a revolutionary zero-waste coffee program in partnership with filanthrope after more than 3 years of discussion and planning. This program involves capturing all the waste streams from coffee production and turning them into extremely valuable income streams. The program has the following steps:
Coffee pulp is fermented/pickled. It becomes and ANIMAL FEED
Coffee waste water is cleaned with biochar and bacteria. As the bacteria and biochar clean the sugars and nutrients out of the water, it forms a single-cell protein feed. It becomes an ANIMAL FEED
Ground cover plants to protect against soil erosion and improve soil health are trimmed, harvested, and fermented. It becomes and ANIMAL FEED
Native shade trees are trimmed and composted. It becomes a COMPOST
Mix-crops such as banana, moringa, jackfruit, taro, cassava, cabbage, etc. are harvested and sold. The wastes are fermented. It becomes ANIMAL FEED
Animals are co-raised and fed the feeds. Raising animals on these fermented feeds reduces the cost of animal raising by 80%, Animals are raised in self-composting, no-fly, no-smell, soft beds (i.e. living beds). No hormones, antibiotics, or non-humane practices are used. It becomes COMPOST and INCOME
All animal wastes are fed to a globally important insect, called Black Soldier Fly. This non-biting, non-disease carrying larva is more than 40% protein and is a natural antibiotic for animals which eat this insect. The larva also digest manure and produce compost in the same way as worms (vermicompost). It becomes COMPOST AND FEED.
Black Soldier Fly larvae are fed to fish within an aquaponics system called Integrated Aqua-Vegeculture (www.iavs.info). The system raises fish and fruiting vegetables (beans, tomatoes, eggplants, melons, pumpkins, zucchini, cucumbers) and leafy greens (chard, bok choy, kale, etc) through recycling fish waste through a sand-bed filtration system which grows the plants. It becomes HUMAN FOOD and INCOME
Overall, by utilizing the wastes of coffee production in a forest setting, families can drastically increase their resiliency and income.
All wastes return in the form of animals for sale, fish and vegetables for domestic consumption, and organic composts for their land.
In this system, rather than relying on a one time payment of potentially 5,000 USD/year from specialty coffee (average farm of 1 hectare), families will be able to earn 1,200 USD/month or more from their waste transformation in addition to the 5,000 USD/year from the coffee. This results in an annual income of more than 18,000 USD/year and receiving a monthly, not annual income.
"COFFEE WASTE IS WORTH FAR MORE THAN
SPECIALTY COFFEE ITSELF."
- MICHAEL GOMEZ WOOD, FI-LAN'THRO-PE
Economic stability involves spreading out income and cash-flow as well as increasing overall annual income with repeatable results.
It is the hope of the cooperative that these systems will be shared beyond the cooperative, beyond coffee growing and into other crops, and beyond the borders of Laos. It is the hope to start a true, agro-ecological revolution.The revolutionary concept is that coffee growing families can earn more from their wastes than they can for their coffee.