By Stett Holbrook
There's organically grown coffee. There's shade-grown coffee that preserves forest habitat for wildlife. And there's Fair Trade coffee that ensures workers are paid a fair wage. But Chido's Blend from San Rafael's Equator Estate Coffee & Teas is in a league of its own in terms of social consciousness. Coffee is supposed to be stimulating, but a cup of java that's inspiring is something quite different.
The medium-bodied blend of premium beans from Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Kenya is named after Zimbabwean activist Chido Govero, a young woman who lost her mother to AIDS when she was eight. She never knew her father, and found herself caring for her ailing grandmother and young brother. To support her family, she dropped out of elementary school to work in the fields around her village. In order to be able to live on her family's land, Govero had to endure abuse at the hands of her uncle and cousin.
Meanwhile, at nearby Africa University, researcher Margaret Tagwira began experimenting with mushroom farming on agricultural waste as a way to provide protein-rich food and business opportunities for poor rural communities. Partnering with Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives (ZERI), an organization that seeks to alleviate basic human needs with available local resources, Tagwira launched a mushroom-farming training program for orphans at the university. Govero was one of the first to participate.
After the training, students returned to their villages knowing not only how to feed themselves but also how to earn money through sales in local markets. In time, many of these industrious girls married and started families of their own. Of the 15 girls who started the program, only Govero remained single. Tagwira and her husband decided to adopt her.
Govero quickly advanced through school and learned more about mushroom farming. The ZERI Foundation furthered her education and sent her to Colombia, India, Kenya and elsewhere to teach impoverished orphans like her how to farm a valuable, sustaining crop using readily available waste products. Today, many of the communities Govero helped train are self-sufficient in protein without any inputs from the outside. Tagwira is now pursuing a doctorate in food and nutrition based on her experiences. Govero has taken her message to Marin City to teach unemployed youth about the virtues of mushroom farming as a tool for job creation, healthy food production and reducing waste at local landfills. She also went on to write a book about her experiences (The Future of Hope: Message from an African Orphan to a World in Crisis), and now works in a Zimbabwean village. Her plan is to spread her self-help know-how throughout Africa to create jobs and alleviate hunger using what is locally available.
Raise a cup to Govero and Equator Estate Coffees and Teas. One hundred percent of profits from the sale of Chido's Blend go to support the ZERI Foundation and Govero's work with orphan girls in coffee-producing countries around the world. Drinking a cup of Chido's Blend gives me a feel-good buzz that has nothing to do with caffeine. For more information, go to www.equatorcoffees.com.
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