Poverty is the greatest threat to mountain gorillas, and a major focus of the Dian Fossey Fund International’s work in Rwanda is helping people fight poverty. For this reason, the Fossey Fund welcomes its partnership with Thanksgiving Coffee, which donates $1 from the sale of each package of its Gorilla Fund Coffee to the Fossey Fund to support the Fund’s work in Rwanda.
“The same people who clear forest for farming, encroach on gorilla habitat and poach are often pushed by desperation caused by poverty,” says Fossey Fund President and CEO Clare Richardson. “The Fossey Fund believes in protecting gorillas and their habitat by creating better choices for people and supporting the development of a sustainable economy in Rwanda.”
Coffee is the backbone of Rwanda’s rural economy and it provides a unique opportunity to address these challenges. By some estimates, coffee provides over 75 percent of the country’s export earnings, and most of the rural population grows coffee.
On small farms, often an acre or less in size, farmers raise subsistence crops to feed their families. Coffee is their main income-generating cash crop to cover basic living expenses such as school fees, medicine, and clothing. Increasing the value of this coffee can greatly increase farmers’ income and reduce pressure on the last remaining gorilla habitat.
Since 2004, the Fossey Fund has benefitted from a partnership with California-based Thanksgiving Coffee Company. They distribute Gorilla Fund Coffee, a delicious Fair Trade Certified coffee from the Dukunde Kawa Cooperative in northern Rwanda. The cooperative includes 2,000 farms in an area of Rwanda that has a long history of coffee production but has suffered from low prices and a lack of infrastructure that prevented the individual farmers from investing in quality. Through Thanksgiving Coffee Company, the cooperative has been able to build three state-of-the-art processing stations, develop a sophisticated quality control system, and export directly to the international market so the members can receive premium prices.
“By working together we are able to support Rwandan farmers as they develop sustainable alternatives to logging and poaching, raise additional funds for gorilla conservation, and support the economic development of Rwanda,” says Richardson. “Buying Gorilla Fund Coffee helps fight poverty and saves gorillas in Rwanda.”