A WOMAN with great passion for peace, that is how most people viewed Coffee for Peace founder Joji Pantoja and she did not earn that impression for no reason.
Living for years in Mindanao and being exposed to conflict-stricken parts of the island, for her, coffee can be a vehicle for peace. After all, there’s nothing that can’t be fixed over a good cup of coffee.
The 58 years old peace advocate founded Coffee for Peace, Inc. (CFP) around 2006, a Davao-based social enterprise operating in the areas of Mt. Apo, Bukidnon, and the Cordillera Administrative Region that supplies world class Arabica and Robusta coffee and sources them from communities that observe principles of fair trade.
It also works continuously to train more coffee farmers in producing quality coffee and promoting peace in conflicted areas.
Coffee for Peace founder Joji Pantoja shared the enterprise focuses on three advocacies: help farmers, protect the environment, and promote peace through coffee.
“We are supplying a conflict-sensitive coffee. We try to serve our farmers who are in the middle of those conflicts and present them an alternative in succeeding economically, without having to take part in the conflict,” she said.
CFP is working with coffee farming communities using Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) principles and practices. PAR is a set of knowledge and skills that include justice advocacy, peace building, conflict transformation, and the promotion of active non-violence as a way to resolve conflicts.
When starting the business, Pantoja - who is also the Chief Operations Officer of PeaceBuilders Community - explained she didn't understand deeply the conflict in Mindanao at first which pushed her to dialogue to people who were being displaced as refugees in their homeland. She noticed that in every negotiation, coffee is served. This observation made her realized that she could use coffee as an iconic product for peace and development.
“On my search for coffee in the mountain areas where the beans are grown conflict are still there where farmers are caught between the rebels and military fight. I asked migrant farmers if they'd be interested in having their coffee marketed. At first, they are hesitant to take on another project but eventually I found interested growers,” she said.
With its contribution to the community, CFP is a recipient of various accolades including the Asean Leadership Award on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication–Private Sector 2017, Inclusive Business Award for Asean Business Awards 2017, and N-Peace Award from the United Nations Development Program – Impact Investment Exchange Asia (UNDP-IIXAsia).
Pantoja was also recognized as one of Inspiring Filipina Entrepreneurs in 2017 and University of Santo Tomas’ Most Outsanding Alumna Award 2017.
Pantoja is many things – a mother to three enterprising children and grandmother to seven girls – but above all she’s a peace advocate who dedicates most of her time for attaining peace and sustainable livelihood to the community.