I was browsing enviously one of the websites (yes they have a few different websites for different projects/country sub-organisations) of a large Christian organisation which a couple of my friends here are with. I noticed that the site had a kind of burnt, smoky background which we had been thinking of adding to our coffee bag labels, but of course had no idea how to implement. I wondered whether we would get to a point where someone would volunteer to design a website for us, at a “friendship price” or something, seeing as we are a non-profit social business.
I thought to myself how when we have asked for help from people around us, like our good friends (or family), the help or support had been freely given in order to support a friend. NOT saying that that’s a bad thing. We would NOT be here without the support of our friends who stuck with us and helped us in so many ways, even though at some point the whole thing may have seemed like a stupid idea; they helped write on bag labels, introduce us to useful contacts, vote for logo designs, sponsor syrups and French presses and a knock box, simply because we are friends and this is what friends do (and for that we will be eternally grateful).
As for the people who own the premises where we are setting up shop, at the time, we had not really known them for a long time. But they let us enter into a partnership with them on really unbelievably fantastic almost too-good-to-be-true terms. And the reason is, as they have told us time and again, is that they have always wanted to have a coffee shop in their place, and they want to make it easy for us to get in on this, because they really believe in what we’re doing.
They believe in what we’re doing. They believe in Wamama Kahawa.
That really struck me – they weren’t doing it because we were old friends or family and they wanted to help us. They were doing it because they believed in our idea and our cause. They wanted to help Wamama Kahawa, they wanted to help the cause.
Thinking about this made me ask myself if I believed in the cause of Wamama Kahawa; whether I believed in our product and what we were doing. Although I have been enjoying the work of setting up the business, beyond that did I see a long term future for Wamama Kahawa? Was I convinced enough about it to convince others as well?
Tanzania is Africa’s 4th largest coffee growing country and more than 50,000 tonnes of coffee is harvested in Tanzania yearly. However, the coffee which is actually produced (and this means not just grown but processed, roasted and packaged as well) in Tanzania is a fraction of the amount harvested. Generally speaking, only 2 coffee brands really dominate the supermarket shelves, one sells instant coffee while the other is not even really Tanzanian, i.e., the beans are grown in Tanzania but not processed, roasted, blended or packaged here but in Kenya. This makes a huge difference because those are important components of the whole process and think of how many jobs could be given to Tanzanians if it was done here.
We believe that there is room for more players in the coffee industry, not just for local consumption but for export as well, and we believe that our product is unique. Not because of any particular thing we are doing which is a really new idea, but because of the combination of all the factors which make Wamama Kahawa what it is. Wamama Kahawa is purely local from bean to cup, and there is no one else who uses a 100% old-fashioned hand-roast method so as to keep the process labour-intensive (and without machines it is not a brainless job but does take a lot of skill and practice to perfect); and no one else has a shop like ours, where coffee is being hand-roasted right behind you as you sip your cuppa, where women find pride and dignity through newfound skills and the work of their hands, where coffee is roasted, ground and brewed everyday not because it is money-making, but simply because it is loved.
Those supermarket shelves (in Tanzania and beyond) could be stocked with more Wamama Kahawa, more plantation direct coffee, more of Tanzania and what grows and flourish here. And less instant coffee, and much less pretending-to-be Tanzanian-but-actually-Kenyan coffee.
Beyond that, Wamama Kahawa focuses on a special group of marginalised people, the single mothers. These ladies have not had a chance to go to school, and are single-handedly trying to run, support and provide for a large household consisting of both children and elderly. With Wamama Kahawa the ladies earn a fair wage per kilo that they roast, and as roasting does not need to be done all day, they are able to make enough everyday and still have time to take care of their children or their other household affairs.
This is just the beginning. I don’t know how big it could get (if at all), or how far this could go (although I probably should, I guess…) But this is not about starting something for the sake of financial gains, or just to do “something good”. This IS a cause and a movement, and we believe in Wamama Kahawa for what it is and what it represents.
Perhaps, and hopefully, in time others will too. And perhaps then we’ll get those free web designs…
Just kidding! What I mean is, hopefully then, we’ll be able to pay for great web designs, etc, entirely out of the income earned by Wamama Kahawa – a great product and a great cause!