Ethiopia. It is an old land of ancient people with courage so calm that it whispers rather than shouts. It is a courage that speaks of hope, of strength, of unfailing determination. It is the land that many of us know as the birthplace of coffee.
As a teenager, what I knew of Ethiopia was what I saw on the television in the 80’s: the Ethiopia of extreme droughts and a starving people. The images moved a world into action and brought aid to people in need. And then we went about our lives and the aid ran out. Eventually, the rains came back, but by then, the television crews had long since moved on to another equally devastating disaster. But the Ethiopian people worked their land, loved their families and built their dreams.
Ethiopia is the home of Dukale’s Dream.
I recently was invited to preview the documentary film titled, “Dukale’s Dream”, featuring Hugh Jackman and his wife, Deborra-lee Furness. The documentary tells the tale of how Jackman and his wife, as ambassadors of World Vision Australia, travel to Ethiopia to see how a developmental project is impacting the people and helping to empower a community.
On their journey they meet Dukale, a 27-year-old coffee farmer from the Yirgacheffe region of Ethiopia. The narrative of Dukale and his family unfolds with simple eloquence and is woven into a much larger tale, helping us understand the changing role of development within countries of need.
Giving money is remarkably easy to do—we write checks, swipe cards, check the box all the time. But few of us are given the opportunity to witness first-hand the impact development has on a community. While watching the film, you lose the idea behind his fame, you only see a man trying to make a difference and trying to understand how to continue to empower from afar.
“This is not the way things are meant to be, and it is not the way they have to be.”1
I spoke with the director of “Dukale’s Dream”, Josh Rothstein, known for his documentary work in the areas of social change and development. Rothstein is no stranger to a people in plight. I asked him what he hoped the impact of “Dukale’s Dream” would be?
“There are concepts in the film that the general audience is aware of and have some familiarity with. We have an opportunity to distill some of those parts and weave them together. I don’t think there has been enough pop-culture exposure to articulate the message to a broader audience; we hope to do that here.
It is not just about “fair trade”, as one could argue there are underlying issues with fair trade, but it is more about the community development and the complex issues facing the coffee farmers all over the world. As a consumer, you have an opportunity to articulate the idea of why it matters.
Ultimately, in that way, we have a larger responsibility to speak to our audience, apply this message to their everyday lives and help them understand their role in the value chain as buyers.”
Through the lens of Dukale’s Dream, you begin to understand what many non-profit organizations and companies in the coffee industry already know, our world is so very much connected. Our sisters, our brothers, live in villages, sleep in huts, struggle for running water, they need “a hand up—not a hand out.”2
Two prevailing paths of transformation emerged within the last decade. The first was the shift from just giving money or aid, to creating change through development. The other is the sheer connectivity that technology has made possible, shrinking the size of the globe and expanding our marketplace.
We have to get to a point where people in extreme poverty are at a level beyond getting the minimal needs of survival met. Once beyond that, development or empowerment of a community can take hold and be transformative.
Development is the root of change that empowers people to expand their own lives through communal sustainability. Building stronger communities through education, training, mentoring and growth through new opportunities. Communities thrive through innovation and if we give regions the tools necessary to solve regional issues, sustainable transformation takes hold and the next generation benefits exponentially.
Those of us who have spent much of their lives in “coffee” understand. But what of those who are just outside our “world” of coffee? Do they understand the impact they could have if they chose to drink coffee that is fairly traded, with sustainable practices? The challenge lies in tapping into their buying voices. This is the next level of true sustainable development—utilizing the buying power of the consuming countries and creating lasting change with each cup.
This transformation must occur all along the supply chain and goes beyond telling the story of the coffee we drink in the morning on an artistically drawn chalkboard. The power of sustainable change means getting the end user fully vested in the acceptance that they have the power to transform lives.
Through the inspiring journey in “Dukale’s Dream,” we are shown the power of our choices here at home and how we have the ability to help those who, like us, dream of creating something more for our families and those we love.
The world is a very small place in reality. People are culturally diverse but our needs are the same. We understand the quite courage of the Ethiopian people and we hear their dreams like our own, whispered in the dark, taking shape in the night, transforming with the dawn.
1 Hugh Jackman, Dukale’s Dream, film, 2015
2 Hugh Jackman, Dukale’s Dream, film, 2015
by Kelle Vandenberg