Peter Woerle gets his highs in life from coffee, but that wasn't always the case. In fact, Peter didn’t even care for the hot drink until a few years ago when a life-altering trip introduced him to the world of coffee harvesting.
After an eye-opening visit to Belize revealed to Peter that South American farmers have little power over a market that sells and distributes their coffee beans, the Roche employee and his friend, Sven Rosenthal, decided to do something about it.
“Farmers in developing countries are not taken seriously as economic actors,” explains Peter. “For hundreds of years, they’ve grown their coffee but never roasted their own produce. Some don’t even know what their coffee actually tastes like. This is because most often it’s purchased only as a raw material from them.”
Following months of research and a two-month-long stay in Colombia, Peter and Sven launched a business designed to help farmers hold more sway in the market and give them a chance to become “holistic and economically sustainable producers.”
“With our approach, we’re reintegrating the entire value chain and giving local families full ownership and decision-making power,” says Peter. “They go from farmers to entrepreneurs – it’s about empowerment.”
The two friends began by helping a family of Colombian coffee farmers set up their own roasting facility to produce and package their coffee. They faced a lengthy, challenging process to obtain European certification and were interrupted by prolonged discussions with Colombian drug authorities and police. But they persevered. The first batch of coffee from this experiment made its appearance in Germany under the brand name “Worlds Originals,” the inaugural product of Peter and Sven’s company Linusto.
Despite the current flood of COVID-related obstacles – travel restrictions and the closing of many of the cafes and B2B companies making up their clientele – the project is a success story. Following the sale and distribution of the first few batches of coffee, the farmers they’d helped were able to contribute not only to the professional development of their employees – some had access to English lessons, for example – but also to their communities and local schools.
Peter and Sven plan to establish sustainable coffee-growing practices on coffee plantations across South America. They’ve built a network of more than 300 farmers and are regularly in touch with various unions and farmers’ groups. Their top priority, however, remains ensuring sustainable economic development. “We focused on creating a safe business environment for these farmers,” reports Peter. “Now we need to figure out how to build a long-lasting business.”
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