Sip Coffee & Plant a Tree

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Coffee is love. Having one cup of caffeine goodness is a daily ritual I prefer not to go without. So when I was told about a foundation that sold locally grown coffee beans to help stop deforestation in Mindanao, I knew I had to investigate further.

The Hineleban Foundation was founded by John Perrine, a banana and pineapple farmer who spent most of his life living in Bukidnon. Upon seeing the deforestation happening in the area, he knew he had the power to help change it. He and his wife Renee began the Sip & Reforest campaign in April of this year. The campaign’s aim is simple: you purchase a bag of Arabica coffee and they plant a tree for you that you get to name.

What makes their efforts more unusual than most is that you’re given a GPS coordinate for your tree, so you’re able to check on your tree’s growth each year over the web or on a smart phone. Over 300 trees have been planted since the campaign started.

I decided to do my part and ordered two coffee bags from their online shop. The ordering process was painless and my bags arrived less than a day later. I love efficiency!

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One of the coffee bags that arrived at my doorstep

The GPS ID of my tree

The GPS ID of my tree

A few hours after purchasing my coffee, I received an email showing the GPS coordinate of my tree and its first picture.  I was also able to type my tree’s ID onto their site for quick access.

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One of my trees as seen on their website

I used our tiny little percolator to brew a cup and it came out strong but without being overpowering. A splash of milk was all I needed to make it just right.

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Renee shared that the beans are grown in partnership with seven tribal communities around Mt. Kitanglad. The plants are planted mostly at 1,000 m. above sea level and up, where Arabica coffee grows at its best. They’re on their fifth year of harvest and have been graded the ‘Best Arabica in the Philippines’ by Karen Lo-Tsai, the only Internationally accredited Q- grader in the Philippines (I don’t speak coffee lingo, but I can assume this is a pretty high accomplishment).  Hineleban Coffee has also been rated as ‘Specialty Coffee’ by SCAA roasters around the world.

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You can order your coffee in either whole beans or ground

A bit of fun trivia: one of my favorite Filipina actresses Cherie Gil recently ordered 50 bags to give away to her close friends during her birthday. I think this would be the perfect gift for new parents, you can plant a tree in the name of their baby and offer them a little help with all the sleepless nights they’re about to go through.

For more information, feel free to check our Hinleban’s site. They even invite people to visit their forest in Bukidnon to help plant trees and meet the tribes that grow the coffee. Definitely a trip I’d love to go on in the near future.

In case you’re interested in more information, I asked Renee Perrine to share a little more about the foundation and the Sip & Reforest Campaign. You can find her answers below:

CJL: How did the idea of the Sip & Reforest campaign come about? 

RP: Hineleban Foundation (HF) has partnered with the Indigenous People (IP) living in the foothills of the mountain ranges of Bukidnon.  For the IP’s to protect and reforest our mountain ranges, HF introduced to the IP’s Arabica Coffee production to sustain their forest based traditional life.  HF provided them with seedlings, technology, inputs, and value formation classes.  At harvest time, HF buys back the berries from the growers at 300% higher than the going berry buying price.  HF then post harvests the berries and roasts and packs them individually and markets the coffee for the profit of the IP communities.

The thrust and goal of the Sip & Reforest campaign is to empower Filipinos to reforest their own country while sipping the best Arabica that their own tribes have proudly produced.

How easy was it to merge technology (GPS tracking, apps, etc.) into the campaign?

The process is tedious but transparency is the key to gain support from the Filipino People, and as we have this product to promote the livelihood program of the foundation.

We use GPS cameras to tag each tree with its GPS coordinates, and utilize the Google map link to be able to disseminate the information through our website at www.hineleban.org. Sales are done through our online store at www.store.hineleban.org and the Facebook page is utilized for marketing and tagging the tree pics and coordinates to the tree owners if they have an FB page.

The campaign is gaining its momentum and recognition through social media.

How successful has the campaign been since you started? How many trees have been planted so far?  

We’ve already planted thousands of trees, but since the start of the campaign 300 packs have been bought through the online store with their respective 300 trees which have been named and tagged. We continue to plant thousands of trees up to this day, in anticipation of more sales and support from the Filipino People.

What type of trees are planted?

Indigenous seedlings and seedlings of species collected by the Indigenous People of Mt. Kitanglad, Bukidnon. For example: Cherry Palawan, Acacia Raintree, Caribbean Pine, Cinnamon, and Jacaranda.

Why the need to reforest this area? 

There was a time when Mindanao, the southern most and second biggest landmass in the Philippines, was covered with lush tropical rain forests thriving with wildlife, and was traversed by rivers teeming with aquatic life. The land was very fertile, the air was clean, food was bountiful, and there was unlimited reserve of natural resources. People, plants and animals lived together and nurtured one another in a healthy ecosystem. ­­

In the year 1900, 70% of the Philippines was covered with virgin rainforests – about 210 million hectares which is one third of the existing rainforests of the Amazon today. By the year 1970, the rainforest was down to 34% – about 102 million hectares. And in the past 4 decades, we have continued to wipe out our rainforests leaving only 3% by the year 2000 – about 9 million hectares. In the last 12 years, we have lost more – and are now down to 1.5%, with only about 4.5 million hectares remaining. If this trend is not reversed, we will totally lose all of our remaining rainforest. We are witnessing the desertification of our country.

When reforesting the buffer zones of these mountain ranges, (buffer zones are slopes by the mountains at 18 degrees or higher), you come across the tribal people that live in these mountainsides.  These are the Indigenous People of Bukidnon, coming from 4 original tribes.

They live up in the mountains, very marginalized and far from reaches of any social, health and educational programs of the government.  Some IP’s have fought true to their culture and have guarded their forest, while others have been exposed to benefits of working for logging concessionaires, which eventually caused them the destruction of their area and corrupted their role of forest custodians.

For any reforestation program to succeed passed anyone’s lifetime, the role of “custodians of the forests” has to be restored back to the Indigenous People with utmost dignity. Protecting not only the forest, but the real resource that all people cannot live without- WATER!

Mt. Kitanglad range has the 2nd highest peak in the country. Mt. Kitanglad is at the heart of Mindanao.  With 6 tributaries stretching out to 6 provinces.  This is the watershed of Mindanao.  Mindanao is supposed to be the food basket of the Philippines.  Right now we are importing 98% of our rice consumption when we used to be a country exporting rice.  For our country to produce our own food, we must first protect and reforest our mountains.’

In less than a few hours, my tree was named and planted. Are the trees already planted and then baptized with a name once a bag of coffee is bought? 

The trees are planted in advanced. They’re all planned and planted in advanced, once the coffee bag is sold, we assign a tree to the bag sold and tag the name.

What are your plans for these trees in the future? 

RP: We plan to just leave the trees to grow pass our lifetime as it reforests the mountainside.  The Sip and Reforest Campaign in primarily used as a venue to sell the coffee and to promote awareness of our project.  HF however aims to reforest 140,000 hectares of denuded areas in the mountain ranges of Mindanao.  We have been working with donor agencies and all sectors of the government.  Hopefully, the big project will launch January 2014.

Who exactly is this campaign helping? 

Hineleban Foundation’s goal is to restore our rainforest and watersheds, which supplies everyone with water for our food production.  Realizing Mindanao’s role as the food basket of the Philippines.  A cause to sustain our very existence!

Useful Links: Hineleban FoundationHineleban StoreHineleban Facebook

(A lovely thank you to Jeminah Ferrer for being so easy to communicate with regarding this interview)

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