As I mentioned in the last post that reintroduced this blog, one of its central themes will be that of "connection". I am looking forward very much to sharing a common thread of connections that has run through a network of people and places that have graced my life; as I wrote, to "feature the stories of people and projects I am inspired by". So without further adieu, I present to you True Roots International, a nonprofit consulting agency mainly operating out of Oaxaca, Mexico. Their work centers on services to international donors and nonprofits in the social impact sector, and they have done significant work in the coffee value chain, specifically with smallholder producers at origin. This has led them to offer educational tourism opportunities for those seeking to gain a deeper understanding of community development projects and participation, adding avenues for the interested novice to learn about their work. Other overarching emphases of True Roots International include peacebuilding; peace and cooperation in the rural areas where they work is fundamental to the economic development, environmental stewardship and social advancement they make possible!
"Our team (led by Summer Lewis, Executive Director, and José Luis Zárate, Co-Founder and International Programs Director) provides services throughout all stages of program development and implementation: from building a project from the ground-up, to intervening in an initiative already underway. We provide the tools, knowledge, and support necessary to measure and achieve impact."
True Roots International is excited to be offering another of their Coffee and Community Development Learning Tours this upcoming January 16-19, 2019 in Oaxaca, visiting Mixteca Alta communities deeply invested in sustainable coffee production, which "plays an absolutely essential role in sustaining the fabric of rural communities.”
"We will venture to the mountains of coffee-growing region of La Mixteca Alta, Oaxaca. Local smallholder farmers will lead our visit to their coffee plots, where they will be just beginning the coffee harvest season. Next, in the remote town of Guadalupe Miramar, True Roots’ partner organization CAMPO A.C. will introduce the work of a local coffee co-operative made up of members from 5 surrounding communities. Our visit concludes at a local coffee roaster, uniquely positioned to explore issues in marketing and selling coffee to both local and international markets."
I'm looking forward very much to supporting this tour, as well as the one taking place October 8 - 11, 2019. We invite you or your small group to join us building connections between coffee farmers and improved lives in this important work - contact Executive Director Summer Lewis now to learn more, as the January tour is just around the corner!
Welcome back, readers. This blog will be a place to explain in greater detail not only the ideas behind my website and business, Colin H. Richard Sustainability Services, but also share what likeminded friends are doing through their initiatives, as well. Though there is variety in the services I and these kindred spirits offer, I hope you will see that the forms of education, storytelling and design are complementary and serve not only one another, but my clients and collaborators, and world as a whole.
As several concepts for this blog have been reflected on over the years, one theme has risen to the top: connection. Connection of people to each other and the places they tend to, rich in ecological and cultural history, both those long spoken, sung and written down, and those now being created. This blog will be a platform for sharing my writing, both original compositions for this blog specifically, as well as those that I am privileged to share on others’ platforms.
Lobster fisherman transferring his catch on Caye Caulker, Belize
It will also feature the stories of people and projects I am inspired by, and it will continue to be an honor to be surrounded by a community of such meaningful people and work.
There has been a relatively recent move by Western science away from addressing landscapes (and seascapes) by their applied measurements as created by humans – being zipcodes, coordinates of latitude and longitude, and other such units. The updated view, more aligned with timeless traditional ecological knowledge held by indigenous peoples, views natural settings more by their natural (some would say Created) forms, such as watersheds has been a deep shift.
Ahupua’a Images courtesy of Limuhali Garden and Preserve (left), and Kamehameha Schools (right)
To the non-native Western eye, the watershed – an area of land that functions like a funnel to all the surface water such as rivers that flow over it, guiding it to one collecting place such as a lake or ocean – can be an enlightening concept. To traditional people such as the Kānaka Maoli/Native Hawai’ians, the watershed (called ahupua’a) has remained the most logical and obvious way to steward the land, which itself stewards the most valuable and sacred of resources: fresh, clean water. To have generous access to fresh water (wai) was equitable to having great wealth (wai wai).
Traditional rice farmer in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
A friend of mine who works as a facilitator for all kinds of groups (public health, wildlife trafficking prevention, all kinds of advocacy that affects the lives of villagers, etc.) speaks of “changing the ‘how’ of what we do” as critical to building resilience in our personal and professional lives. This “working smarter, not harder” can make space for us to continue to innovate and not get rutted, stuck, overwhelmed and exhausted. One of my favorite books speaks to how what people do stems from their inner landscape, and how this “cultivation of people” and their hearts and minds is so critical. The intangible framing of our past, present and future story - first, before and alongside anything tangible in our lives - shapes how we will establish, tend to and improve as the landscape of our lives.
Wa’a Na Hiku (Big Dipper Canoe) on its maiden voyages off Pelekane Bay, Island of Hawai’i.
To those who seek a path, one will appear in the most seemingly impossible of places and oriented us to a way forward; often, this isn't a conventional, obvious route. Instead, it is another way, often not apparent to what would be called popular culture's "way". Indigenous peoples' ways of knowing of their land and sea yielded vast traditional knowledge, including precise star-based navigation that used heavenly bodies such as the sun, moon and stars to guide them to their destination. This star knowledge would mark “sea paths”, or routes by which oceanic peoples could travel across an otherwise unmarked expanse, reliably and repeatedly across millions of square miles of open sea from one island society to another. The remarkable cultural renaissance represented by the Hokule'a and Polynesian Voyaging Society has not only been significant for the Polynesian peoples, but suggestive of how all people might regain a sense of meaning that transcends our cultural and personal distinct hardships.
Our lives and times may often seem just this enigmatic and vexing amongst modernity’s seascape of constant stress, shocks and change. Amidst challenging seas, we have an opportunity to serve each other as wayfinding resources along our journeys, serving to guide the way forward as winds, currents, waves, and seabirds do to traditional seafarers. Many things work together to help us arrive where they we know we need to be.
So thank you again for rejoining my journey here. Or should I say “our journey”, as neither I nor any of us go alone. Instead, we are invited to go with a community of traveling wayfinders who seek not only a beautiful destination of a more sustainable world and better life for all, but wise paths to lead them and others there.