In Swahili, “harambee” means pulling together or standing in solidarity or sharing resources for community building.
In Dayton, Harambee is also the name of a fair-trade coffee roasting co-op supporting African refugees and African coffee growers. The AFSC-supported co-op took another important step forward recently when the Ohio Secretary of State officially approved the co-op’s registration.
“I feel highly inspired by the enthusiasm and energy of the co-op’s advisory board toward the development of the first fair-trade coffee roaster in Dayton,” said Migwe Kimemia, who directs AFSC’s Economic Justice Program in Dayton. “I just can’t wait to see it happen!”
Migwe’s own passion and spirit have had a lot to do with overcoming numerous obstacles, including language and cultural barriers. African refugees in Dayton come from a number of different countries; many have survived wars and conflicts that have left them distrustful of others.
On top of that, Migwe says Dayton’s poverty rate is a mind-boggling 29 percent, twice the Ohio average. Shuttered auto factories don’t provide much hope to refugees, who are required to be financially independent after only three months in the U.S.
That’s why AFSC, in partnership with the city-endorsed “Welcome Dayton Plan,” is working on projects that build off the strengths of refugees and immigrants. Soccer was one way to build trust among different communities. The Harambee Coffee Roasters Co-op is building on that trust while providing sustainable economic livelihoods to hundreds of refugees and farmers in Africa.
According to Migwe, the co-op’s mission statement reads: “Harambee Coffee Roasters Co-op (HCRC) is a coffee cooperative business owned and operated by Africans in the Diaspora in collaboration with fair trade cooperatives in Africa.” AFSC has facilitated the formation of the co-op – including the completion of a feasibility study and business plan – as well as the nomination of its advisory board.
AFSC has also provided the co-op advisory board with office space and is now in the process of building its leadership capacity. The board is working on nominating potential members to the co-op board.
Next steps for the co-op include fund raising and grant-writing in advance of beginning business in 2014. Members will pay $200 to join.
Migwe says that Quakers and others in Dayton currently have to travel to Columbus to buy fair-trade coffee. As the Harambee co-op continues to pull together for the community, you can almost smell the beans roasting.