I am writing to update all of our customers about the situation in northern Sumatra. As many of you know, we get our Sumatran coffee from a wonderful cooperative, PPKGO, made up of 32 communities in the high mountains of this province of Indonesia, which borders on the Aceh province. Aceh was the area hardest hit by the earthquakes that triggered the devastating Asian tsunami (tidal wave) this week.
Our farmers suffered tremendous property damage in the mountains, many houses collapsed and roads were destroyed. To date, we know of only two deaths when a house collapsed on one family of farmers. The coffee warehouse in Takengon was partially destroyed, but the resourceful farmers turned the rest of the warehouse into shelter for the homeless families. However, we haven't received word of the damage in the outlying communities of the coop, as they are distant, there is no communication and the roads are impassable. We pray that those farmers and their families fared well, but we just don't know yet.
The headquarters of and storage facility for our farmers is in Medan, in Aceh province and not far from Banda Aceh. While the damage was less severe in Medan, the road to the port was destroyed, so no coffee can leave (meaning no income for the farmers) and access for aid in that area is limited. You may have read of the devastation in Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province. There, the death toll is staggering. There is little or no food and water and four million people are in a desperate situation. Many of our farmers have family in Banda Aceh, many of them have sent their children to school there to take advantage of the high schools and colleges in the city. Some of our farmers are now on the broken roads to Banda Aceh (they were bad enough before the earthquakes) in search of their children and loved ones. We won't know the real impact for weeks. We have already wired money to the coop, and are working with other members of Cooperative Coffees, our fair trade roaster's cooperative here in the USA and Canada, to pull together more funds. The money is going directly to the farmers, who will report back to us how it was used. We did this very successfully when Hurricane Mitch destroyed much of the coffee plants and housing of our partners in Nicaragua. We have created a way for you to contribute directly to this fund through our website. We are not a nonprofit and can't offer you a tax deduction for this, but you can be assured that every dollar you contribute will go directly to the farmers without overhead and administration (however necessary) of large aid organizations. In spite of this tragic news, I hope you and your families are healthy and experiencing a peaceful New Year. I'll keep you informed of new developments. Be well.