Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Raising Coffee in Ethiopia, With Help From Harlem

Jennifer S. Altman for The New York Times

The Rev. Nicholas S. Richards, in his Harlem office, is the president of the Abyssinian Fund.

From a 542-square-foot office above a bustling intersection in Harlem, the Rev. Nicholas S. Richards is building what he hopes will be a 7,000-mile bridge to the eastern highlands of Ethiopia.

The Abyssinian Fund is working with 700 coffee farmers in Harrar, Ethiopia, like this woman, selling her beans.

It is a bridge more than 200 years in the making.

In that modest two-room office off East 125th Street, the Abyssinian Fund, the only nongovernmental organization in Ethiopia formed by an African-American church, the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, finally has a home.

Mr. Richards, 26, an assistant minister at Abyssinian under the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, is the president of the recently formed Aby Fund, as he calls it, an international aid and development arm of the church. It will soon be joining forces with a co-op of 700 coffee farmers in the ancient Ethiopian city of Harrar, with a mission to improve the quality of the farmers’ lives by helping them improve the quality of their coffee beans.

The Abyssinian Fund will pay for specialized training and equipment to help the co-op’s farmers produce a higher-quality product so they can be more competitive on the international coffee market. Once their income has increased, part of what they make will then be set aside in a fund to support local development projects, like much-needed roads, schools or clinics.

Full story: New York Times

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