When Milwaukee Lutheran pastor Ron Bohrer first went to Meru, Tanzania on a mission trip in 1999, he had no idea he would be initiating a partnership that would have far reaching implications.
While in Meru, a small town in the northern part of the country, Bohrer encountered coffee farmers struggling to sell their beans and sustain a livelihood. During one discussion with local residents, one farmer commented to Bohrer, “We grow coffee; you drink coffee; will you buy our coffee?” After some initial hesitation, Bohrer said, “yes,” and the Mount Meru Coffee Project was born.
Partnering with the Lutheran Synod of Greater Milwaukee, Pastor Bohrer helped organize farmers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church Diocese of Meru to sell their coffee beans to their U.S. based Lutheran counterparts. From there, members of local synods across the United States sold the coffee while also working to raise awareness about the living conditions of farmers in Tanzania.
Wanting to ensure a fair rate, the coffee farmers negotiated with Bohrer a fair market price. However, shipping costs proved to be an impediment. “The first import, which made no sense, was about 700 lb. per year,” Bohrer said.
The beans were a hit and rated as premium grade.
Bohrer said, “We found out that we had a pretty good product here.”
Today, more than 20 years later, the partnership between the coffee farmers and the Evangelical Lutheran Church has remained lucrative. According to Bohrer, since the advent of the pandemic lockdowns, coffee sales have soared resulting in the U.S. based congregations being able to continue to support the not just the farmers but the Tanzanian congregations in the Diocese of Meru.
Source: Living Lutheran