Article: Tragedy’s Wake: Update from Sumatra

Written by Cafe Campesino on Jan 1, 2005 in Article, NEWSLETTER |
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Café Campesino, through its membership in Cooperative Coffees, imports our fine fair trade, organic, shade grown Sumatra coffee from the PPKGO farmer’s cooperative located in the Aceh region of Sumatra. Sadly, the recent tsunami and earthquakes have taken the lives of at least two of the producers from the PPKGO cooperative and damaged the cooperative’s processing facility and the roads to the port. Numerous producer farmers’ homes have been destroyed and many of the producers have lost family members and friends. Café Campesino asks you to join us in helping with the current relief efforts so that this coffee project, which has grown to become the largest “single origin” Fair Trade project in the world with membership currently numbering 1,832 small-scale farmers among 24 communities, can get back on its feet. Thank you.

The following are updates that we have received about the situation in Sumatra:

December 30, 2004 — from PPKGO & ForesTrade: This just came in from Aceh. Unfortunately it looks as though farmers from PPKGO are among the casualties of the quake. (The following is an excerpt from a letter from ForesTrade): We continue to receive reports about the extent of the damage to lives and infrastructure suffered by our partners and their families and communities in the Central Aceh coffee-growing region in northern Sumatra. As previously mentioned, the latest message this morning is that two of our producers died in the collapse of their homes in one of the 32 communities participating in the project. This community is in one of the most accessible areas, and we are greatly concerned that further reports from other communities will add to the toll.

Additionally, we know that many of the farmers send their children to secondary schools and colleges in the lowland areas, primarily the provincial capital of Banda Aceh, one of the areas of highest concentration of casualties. Our local director, Mr. Muhammad Salim, whom many of you have met during his visit to the U.S. in 2003, has three daughters in college in Banda Aceh. He and several of his PPKGO neighbors left with a convoy of vehicles from Takengon to Banda Aceh yesterday, and we haven’t heard from them yet.

January 3, 2005 – From the staff at the PPKGO cooperative: The latest information coming out of Sumatra indicates that there had actually been three earthquakes in Aceh. The first one was on the 26th followed by two more on the 29th, 5 minutes apart. They were significant seismographic events. Buildings have been damaged around Takengon (location of the coffee processing facilities) and people are focusing now on helping others in need rather than on the repair of buildings. The PPKGO members are dressing in their uniforms and are traveling to Banda Aceh for three days to help with the relief. However, coffee is still being harvested. Sadly though, bodies are still being found constantly though survivors are not able to keep up with the burials around the coast. Many of the soldiers and rebels that were in hiding have perished. One of the coop’s inspectors has lost his mother and youngest child. There are many babies now without parents and many people in local churches have begun adoption efforts. In Padang the people are very traumatized as they are encountering many family members or friends who have been affected. There was a warning for another tsunami on the 30th and everyone fled to the hills. During the evacuation thieves came and robbed homes. The mayor finally went on the radio to let people know it was a false alarm and that they could return to their homes.

January 5, 2005 — From the staff at Forestrade USA – …feeling a little cheerier this morning despite the continuing bad news. I received an email from Lucia saying that many volunteers from the PPKGO formed an envoy of 8 trucks filled with vegetables and rice and headed to Banda Aceh yesterday. They’ll stay for 3 days and then return. Then there’s other volunteers from the PPKGO who will go next week for 3 days.

January 12, 2005 — From ForesTrade co-founders Thomas and Sylvia Fricke: It’s great to hear that Coffee Kids will send their $30,000 donation today. We hope to have another $17,000 in place tomorrow so that we can send two full shipments of supplies out to Banda Aceh this Saturday. We plan to get special “blue books” or official permits for entering Aceh upon entry to Indonesia on Friday morning. Sylvia and I plan to accompany two of the coffee trucks returning from Medan this Saturday to meet with several of our colleagues in Bireun about halfway to Banda Aceh. Unfortunately we are also bringing several thousand meters of Muslim burial shrouds in addition to food and medicinal supplies for the survivors. We have also been invited by the U.S. Consul’s office in Medan on Friday and Saturday to attend the international relief coordination group daily meetings at one of the main hotels there. We expect to dispatch a lot of information from the group and directly through discussion with our colleagues over the weekend.

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