On his most recent Green Buyer Charlie Habegger stopped by Biruh Tesfa (pronounced "Bru-tess-fuh"), a combined kindergarten and primary school with a student body of more than 1,600 located in the Kazanchis neighborhood of Addis Ababa. Only a few months ago, its bathroom and water systems were rudimentary, but with the help of funds raised from sales of our Miir Travel Mug and Miir Commuter Cup for Splash—a social justice organization dedicated to scaling safe water and improved hygiene practices among communities of youth in Asia and East Africa—Charlie was stunned to see that it's become an entirely different school.
Charlie's sourcing trips often bring him into communities where the specialty coffee industry is one of the only ways people can earn a decent wage. Although Blue Bottle supports sustainable co-ops, washing stations, and farms that promote gender equity, competitive pay, and good working conditions, poverty remains a global problem—one that overwhelmingly affects women and children. As the International Women's Coffee Alliance notes, even though the coffee industry creates opportunity for small-lot farmers all over the world, "women face additional challenges due to gender inequality that often manifests itself into being excluded from training, education, and financing opportunities." Women account for the majority of the world’s poor, yet own less than 1 percent of the world’s titled land.
Access to opportunity depends upon access to resources that help people get their fundamental needs met, and few are more fundamental than clean water. Without them, students—and girls in particular—are less likely to attain even a basic education. With an unreliable municipal water supply, water shortages are the norm in Addis Ababa, meaning that water must be strictly rationed.
With support from Splash, over the past few months, Biruh Tesfa has built two completely new bathroom houses with revived foundations, roofs, and drainpipes, each with twelve individual stalls. The toilets, previously cutouts in the concrete, are now porcelain, surrounded by newly laid tile whose smooth texture is easier to clean and less likely to retain bacteria than concrete. There is now fresh water available in each building for manual toilet flushing.
"I was thrilled to see how efficiently and intentionally our funds were spent," says Charlie.
Splash reports that over 80 percent of Addis Ababa's population lives in slum districts with poor infrastructure and very limited access to adequate water and sanitation. With water quality and scarcity posing a real threat to the health and livelihood of residents in Addis Ababa, Splash hopes that, "technical expertise coupled with a proven, scalable strategy will have positive, lasting affects on the most vulnerable of its citizens."
Among the most vulnerable are girls, which is why Biruh Tesfa's newly installed water faucets are crucial for girls who may not otherwise be able to attend school while they're menstruating. The fewer days that girls miss school, the better chance they have of continuing their education.
"One of my favorite things about field work in coffee is witnessing as people solve problems on their farms, in their homes, or at their washing stations, overcoming the endless challenges of complicated landscapes, often with few resources," says Charlie. "And I'm proud that we make things like this a part of doing business in the world."
With the help of the funds we raised, Splash is not only able to improve Biruh Tesfa's facilities, but support the greater community in promoting best practices for water hygiene. As students adopt practices learned at school with the resources they need to accomplish them, they bring home these lessons to families and neighborhoods, having a radial effect on entire communities.
We're celebrating Women's History Month by continuing to support the incredible women in our communities. Find out how we make a difference every day.