Monday, June 30, 2008

Coffee and Sustainability

Coffee is a big part of Arabic culture. Coffee was a daily part of life and was synomous with their tremondous hospitality and social interactions in every country I visited in the Middle East from Syria to Kuwait. Every home I visited offered me a coffee, as a nescafe or as an Arabic coffee which is served in a tiny glass handle-less cup flavored with fresh cardaomom pods that are ground along with the coffee beans, or even a Turkish coffee (similar to an espresso). From the time I first arrived in the Middle East, I could not help but notice the strong underlying connection between Latin and Arab culture, especially in the language.

I realized very quickly that just knowing Spanish I already had a great foundation in Arabic, as the Spanish language contains at least 10,000 Arabic-derived roots and words. It has always been a passion of mine to build bridges of understanding between people. I hoped to find a way to celebrate this link that exists between these two cultures in order to increase understanding about the Middle East in other parts of the world and to promote sustainable growth and greater exchage and cooperation.

I found one tool to do this through coffee and matte as both of these products are a big part of both of the culture and history of both regions in different ways. Being from Guatemala, which is a producer of some of the best coffee in the world, and the number two exporter of cardamom (which is mixed with coffee) to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, I already had some background in coffee as my family was involved in the coffee business at one point and it was a big part of our culture. I knew that coffee would be a great industry to learn more about and find a way to promote sustainable business practices in the Middle East while at the same time increase understanding and relations between the Arab and Latin American regions through commerce.

I decided I would enroll in a program about coffee studies throug my university which would take me to two countries in Central America, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, to learn more about the coffee industry in order to see if this idea of mine would be feasible. I have only been in Costa Rica for about 10 days for this program and I have already learned so much about coffee and how it relates to sustainability.

It is a very complex industry and product, which I hope to elaborate upon more over the coming weeks and will be the focus of most of my entries. I have to get back to my home stay family for my traditional Costa Rican dinner, so I must end here, but please stay in touch I hope to post again later this week. PURA VIDA!!! ;)

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How Can Sustainability and Social Responsibility Contribute to the Future of the Middle East?

With their potential for economic growth and their financial wealth, Kuwait and the rest of the Gulf countries have the potential to become front runners in the Middle East in considering the environment and social responsibility, and I hope to help them to start that foundation.
The Middle East is a fascinating place with so much cultural richness and financial prosperity. People of the region are increasingly growing aware of the changing climate of business and of the world as a result of globalization and as such there is growing potential for development here. We can see already a substantial amount of growth and innovation in a very short period of time through the example of Dubai. Unfortunately, one area that still lacks a greater awareness is the environment and how it is being impacted by the current practices of companies and individuals. This problem affects all aspects of life from physical health to the natural beauty of the region. This problem however can also be viewed as a treasure box of opportunity for those who have vision and initiative and wish to consider sustainable concepts and how they can adopt them in their businesses.

I chose this cause because I love the Middle East. I am originally from Latin America and study in the University of Washington and I am studying abroad in Kuwait. I had so much success here and fell in love with the region so much that I was looking for a way I could give back to a place that had given me so much. I realized quickly that the region overall had great issues with regards to the environment. The beautiful beaches of the gulf were littered with garbage, there were little if any recycling programs, no awareness campaigns and lesson plans for the schools with regards to the environment, all of the landfills were unplanned and unlined and the waste seeping into the soil and polluting the storm water drains. Yet I could not understand how such a wealthy country with the financial means to take care of this issue and with a government committee assigned to the environment was allowing this to be this way. I decided I would try to see how I can help make a change for the better just as many countries have also done with regards to such issues as waste management such as the UK.