My name is Hana Scheetz Freymiller and I am a recent graduate of Wellesley College in Massachusetts, majoring in development economics. Recently I received the 2007-2008 Wellesley Knafel Traveling Fellowship to study sustainable coffee production in six different
countries. Over the next year, I will spend two months in each of the following countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Guatemala, Costa Rica,Indonesia, and India.
The goals of my fellowship are:
* To live in coffee growing communities and visit small farms to study
the effect of sustainable coffee farming on farmers' well-being.
* To look beyond its price and learn how coffee cultivation impacts
* To compare different types of certification systems and understand
their impacts on farming methods.
This blog contains both notes on my research and some quirky details of my everyday adventures.
I sincerely hope you enjoy.
September 8th 2008
In poor, isolated communities scattered across the tropics, coffee cultivation is often presented as a solution to their economic and environmental woes. By selling coffee cherries, development agencies believe farmers gain valuable cash income that will enable them to invest in their children’s future with school uniforms and books. As coffee is a tree-like crop that loves shade, its roots grow alongside those of a diverse group of trees that prevent erosion, enrich previously unproductive soil and protect another swath of land from slash and burn agriculture. In the beautiful Araku Valley of Andhra Pradesh, the Indian Coffee Board introduced coffee cultivation as exactly this style of solution to the problems of the impoverished tribal peoples that populate these rural rolling hills. For centuries, a diverse collection of tribes coexisted relatively well together in the Araku ... read more
September 2nd 2008
I awoke early to meet Cheryl for breakfast. After chai and chipati, we boarded a door-less jeep to head out into the field. We bounced up and down dirt roads with potholes large enough for a hippo to properly bath herself. The constant jarring made conversation nearly impossible as the lack of doors forced all our attention to keeping our bodies inside the vehicle. The coffee estates lining the road were overgrown. The after-effects of the Indian coffee crisis combined with a perceived labor shortage and the pressures of modernity, have forced the land owners to search out other, more profitable uses for their vast swaths of land. We turned up a tidy road toward remarkably poorly kept fields. The owners of this particular farm had turned away from coffee and were transforming it into a ... read more
August 15th 2008
I tossed a fist full of rupees at the cab driver, heaved my twenty kilo pack onto my back and jumped out of the tuk tuk. My feet hit the ground before we rolled to a stop. I plunged into the chaos of the Bangalore bush station, past families laden with clothes to carry home to the village and foreign travelers struggling to make sense of the melee. I rushed past the guards checking bags at the front, pretending that I did not understand the meaning of their raised fists and protesting voices. I asked the woman under the “office” sign where to find bus station number 53 to Chikamaglur. She waves vaguely to my right. I peer up at the board listing destinations and their stop numbers. My destination is unsurprisingly absent. I run in ... read more
June 26th 2008
Ice cold water stung my skin as I doused myself from a small bucket. Shivering I furiously lathered the lavender soap, hoping the movement would ward off the morning chill and help the soap wash off my fore arms. I emerged from my first mandi, a large tiled tub full of water with a scoop floating on top, clean, frozen and alert to my first day in Ruteng. I opened my door to Queen’s “We Are the Champions” echoing through the tiled hall, accompanied by the smile of my housemate Andi. He turned to me and said, “Good morning. Do you want to go to a funeral?” A bit shocked at being invited to an intimate family celebration on my first day, I replied quizzically, “A funeral?” “Yes, you can see a traditional Manggari ceremony,” he ... read more
June 10th 2008
Our bus breaks through the morning mist as we descend down towards Bajawa, the capital of the Ngada region. Across the rice patties morning sun sprays rays of orange, red and yellow over sleepy families tugging water buffaloes by nose rings to work in their rice patties. The standing water of the untilled fields reflects the morning light creating an impressionist painting with the mist blurring the picture as we pass. I feel my legs begin to cramp from the five hour ride. I strain to stretch even a little. In nearly every house on Flores, families rouse themselves to work in the fields repeating their daily ritual. Despite the similarities in their subsistence lifestyle and the close proximity of the two nations, they are distinct cultures with their own language, dress, and traditions. In both ... read more
June 5th 2008
Sometimes bus is a generous word for public transportation. On Flores, “buses” are flat bed trucks, made for carrying cargo and fitted for carrying people. Passengers sit on wooden slabs tucked into the walls, like bleachers with splinters, next to bags of coffee and on top of half-conscious chickens. Every bump lands a bruise. Indonesian pop music with a hip hop base blares from a Panasonic speaker located near the roof. While I had long given up emerging from this ride unscarred, I was at least hoping to retain the function of one ear drum. Harry, my translator, moved behind me and put his leg up so that his knee touched my back. The bus hit a bump and I slammed into it. Two hours into our five hour journey and the back of the seats ... read more
April 28th 2008
My mom is a social worker. She looks at the policies that depend on personal initiative by the poor and says, “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is great, if you have bootstraps.” I often thought of this quote when people would remark on the untapped ingenuity of the poor or remark on their inherent laziness. Coming from a country where people harnessed an untamed wilderness to generate an industrial revolution, I understand how some would espouse the philosophy that anyone can rise above their circumstances with enough grit and determination. I was shocked by how often this sentiment would be expressed by people native to the developing world. Across the continents, a tone of contempt occasionally crept into my conversations with the well-off. If only those poor people would try a little harder, they seemed ... read more
April 23rd 2008
A zestful slurping chorus cuts through the whirring produced by a struggling air conditioner in the corner. Some slurps sound higher, like the buzz of a coffee grinder before you make your morning brew. Others lower more closely resemble the gurgle of an espresso machine churning out a shot. And others remind me of the roar of a jet engine. Some of the world’s most sophisticated coffee palates stand, deep in thought, at long rectangle tables where cups line up in pairs. A woman makes a note on her clip board after a long pondering look across the room before dipping her round silver spoon back into the cups. She slurps, swishes and spits the brown liquid into a white paper cup in her left hand before moving onto the next. A tall, lean man with ... read more
April 19th 2008
I stand in the in the open air of the pick up bed, my knees slightly bent, arms clutching the top of the cabin as we fly down another hairpin turn of the narrow dirt road that scales these coffee mountains and the only thought running through my mind, when I should be fearing for my life and limbs, is pure joy. I think faster Don Felipe! Faster! In this moment, I realize that no matter how adult I feel on my solo sojourn around the world, part of me will always be that 13-year old girl who loves to drive ATVs too fast and crash them into trees. When we return to the town, my host Felipe, the young catador (cupper) with a fledgling cooperative, tells his father, Don Felipe, to bring us back to ... read more
April 12th 2008
Daddy Yankee and the familiar cloud of red dust followed me up the road to the Hotel La Palma. Due to the kindness of the head of a the Central and South American wing of EDE, an international coffee foundation, I found myself searching for a coffee taller (conference) for farmers participating in their newest sustainability project in the middle of the mountains of northern El Salvador. Bright paintings cover the walls of the town, depicting birds, homes, women and children. The distinctive style is a hallmark of La Palma, home to some of the best coffee in El Salvador. I find the hotel, tentatively walking past the two women in the front to find a roomful of farmers in the back. Peppermint streamers cover the windows, wafting forward from the walls with each spin of ... read more