For millions worldwide, coffee is more than a morning ritual; it’s a vital part of our day. Yet, amidst our coffee rituals, do we ever pause to consider the significant waste generated during the coffee process? Today, coffee pulp and grounds constitute a substantial portion of this waste that exerts a profound impact on both the environment and economy.

With innovative spirit, Ms. Pati Arunsee and other members of the Coopérative des producteurs de café du plateau des Bolovens (CPC) led a pioneering soap production and tea bags amidst the lush landscapes of Nongchua village, Laos. Through the Gender Leadership School (GLS) project of Fairtrade NAPP, Ms. Arunsee’s journey exemplifies the transformative power of community-driven action by turning the local unwanted resources into sustainable income opportunities.

At the heart of this initiative lies a mission to empower youth and maximize profits by harnessing the untapped potential of waste products of coffee processing i.e., coffee grounds and coffee pulps. With meticulous precision, Ms. Arunsee and her team, comprising 37 members including 13 women, embarked on a journey of entrepreneurship. They began by meticulously selecting 100% red ripe coffee, hand-pressing 44 kgs of coffee pulps and packaging them into 85 tea bags. They were subsequently sold for 5,000 kips each. The learning and experience assisted in the captivating saga of coffee soap production. Divided into three groups, Ms. Arunsee and her peers crafted a total of 109 pieces of soap, blending soap base, coffee grounds, honey and perfume into exquisite creations, sold for 5,000 kips each at the village and community fairs.

By transforming coffee grounds and coffee pulp into valuable commodities, the project introduced a sustainable approach to resource utilization. Not only did this initiative reduce environmental impact by utilizing the waste residuals of coffee processing, but it also created opportunities for additional income generation. Following a 2022 training session, the coffee soap production tripled the initial quantity. The resulting 126 Euros of income generated was allocated towards the contributions for development of the Nonggouan farmer’s group. These initiatives not only increased income but also empowered women to craft essential daily items for regular consumption. Providing valuable hands-on experience, the activities offered youth an opportunity for skill development and enterprise management. As their products gained popularity locally and beyond, a strong sense of pride and ownership emerged, marking a shift towards innovation and empowerment within the community.

In the rhythm of soap-making and tea production, waste was transformed into wealth and dreams into reality. Ms. Pati Arunsee’s journey reflects the resilience, determination, and transformative potential embedded within Fairtrade NAPP’s initiatives, illuminating a path towards a brighter, more prosperous future for all.

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