YOUTH-LED SOCIAL ENTERPRISE PROMOTES LOCAL COFFEE AND CHAMPIONS SUSTAINABILITY IN SUPPORT OF FILIPINO FARMERS
BY PATRICIA BIANCA S. TACULAO
The company was established on April 16, 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Robin Lim, Bettina Calubaquib, and Lara Jomalesa from De La Salle University. Lim handles all of the financing and operating activities, Calubaquib takes care of the external relations and marketing of the enterprise, while Jomalesa handles all of the project development and research for the enterprise. In addition to their group, Anton Parco and Martin Bautista are in- charge of media and promotions of the enterprise. The group came up with The Amigo Coffee in hopes of creating a sustainable change in society, specifically the agriculture section. Apart from this, the social enterprise also wanted to raise awareness on the reality that local farmers need attention especially at the height of the pandemic. “We believe that we needed to think less of ourselves and provide more platforms and avenues for this sector to reach its full potential,” the group said. SOURCING FROM ALL OVER THE COUNTRY The Amigo Coffee sources its coffee from different small-scale farmers across the country since it has always been their vision to tap different local farmers for their continuous selling periods. “Our farmers grow these coffee berries after three quarters of a year and mill them. The same farmers take these beans into tables where they segregate the perfect from the damaged. After the beans have been polished and sorted, we have this sent to us and roasted,” the group behind The Amigo Coffee said. Presently, the social enterprise has had two waves with the Balutakay Coffee Farmers Association (BACOFA), a group of smallholder coffee farmers situated in Bansalan, Davao del Sur, as their first supplier. “We sourced our first wave of coffee supplies there because they were the most accessible suppliers of local coffee which was a crucial factor for a start-up business like ours,” they said. For the second wave, The Amigo Coffee tapped another group of local farmers located in Kalinga, Cordillera for their coffee supplies: the Gawidan Farmer’s Association Inc. “We believe that by reaching out to different local farmers we are able to foster their condition in the country,” the group said. Moreover, the new social enterprise is still exploring their options about where else they can source coffee from local farmers. In deciding which flavor profiles of coffee we produce, the group identifies their target market and their preferences. By doing so, The Amigo Coffee has already sold their Kalinga Blend Coffee, a fusion of both arabica and robusta beans from Kalinga in the Cordillera Region, that tastes chocolatey and has a smooth body profile. Another variation that the social enterprise introduced is the BACOFA Honey Processed Coffee from Davao Del Sur which features hints of pomelo, a certain sweetness from the honey, and a silky body profile. The products are offered in both whole beans and coffee grounds to cater the needs of their customers. CHAMPIONING SUSTAINABILITY “It is very important for us to remain aligned with our vision, and this signifies our willingness to tap farmers who are in urgent need for help. With this, we interview farmers on their methods and educate them on sustainable ways,” the group said. They added that they do not disregard the farmers who don’t exactly adhere to certain sustainability protocols so that they can help educate the farmers with the help of coffee experts and agriculture professionals. “Our partner roaster, Yellow Turtle, was able to teach them how to produce and harvest quality green coffee beans. It is through programs like these that farmers get to minimize food loss along the process and practice sustainability,” the members of The Amigo Coffee said. Yellow Turtle’s principle is aligned with that of The Amigo Coffee as it aims to embrace diversity and to introduce coffees coming from different parts of the world to both Filipino and foregin consumer. By practicing sustainable farming and improving local food systems, The Amigo Coffee hopes that money can be reinvested in the communities which would then provide jobs. “We, as a social enterprise, have been very active when it comes to research-based initiatives centered on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Having the SDGs as our core, we are able to raise awareness and at the same time act on issues in the agricultural sector of the country. More than this, we use our social enterprise as a platform to connect our partner beneficiaries, the farmers of Bagobo Tagabawa Tribe of Managa in Mindanao, to our customers,” they said. As they continue their operations, The Amigo Coffee hopes to immerse themselves in the situation of local farmers so that they can come up with better long-term solutions and create more coffee flavors unique to a specific area.