TIME South Sudan

Why George Clooney is Supporting Coffee Farming in South Sudan

South Sudan food insecurity
Charles Lomodong—AFP/Getty Images Internally displaced persons queue to register at a refugee camp in Bentiu, South Sudan in February 2015.

A possible solution to the chaos in the world's youngest country can be found at the nexus of celebrity, cause and commerce

When it comes to celebrities and their causes, there is perhaps no more indelible pairing than George Clooney and the nation of South Sudan. After decades of conflict and a genocide that left 2.5 million dead in the East African nation of Sudan, Clooney turned the light of his celebrity on the issue, rallying international support for a long promised referendum on independence for the southern part of the country, that, on January 9, 2011, gave birth to South Sudan. But an 18-month-long civil war, fueled in part by disputes over the new country’s lucrative oil fields, threatens to turn the world’s youngest nation into its latest failed state. On 10 June the Red Cross issued an urgent appeal, warning that 4.6 million South Sudanese were facing “severe food insecurity,” and that in some of the worst afflicted areas people were reduced to eating water lilies to survive. Clooney, who on the eve of South Sudan’s independence cautioned that the early years in the new country were likely to be chaotic, also laid the groundwork for an alternate future that is slowly starting to bear fruit – literally.

In the southwestern state of Central Equatoria, 300 farmers are tending to some 20,000 newly planted coffee trees in an ambitious attempt to reduce the importance of oil to the national economy by focusing on the sustainable export of coffee. And not just any coffee: Premium espresso beans destined for the aluminum capsules of Nespresso, the other name indelibly associated with Clooney. Associated internationally at least — American fans may not be aware he is the brand’s spokesman everywhere else in the world.

At the nexus of celebrity, cause and commerce, Nespresso’s South Sudan project aims to build the coffee industry from the ground up, by planting trees, training farmers in sustainable growing practices, and helping locals set up basic processing mills and sales cooperatives. They have invested $750,000 so far through TechnoServe, a nonprofit development organization that seeks to solve poverty through creating local business. If the pilot project goes well, Nespresso anticipates investing a total of $2.1 million through 2016 and creating a market big enough for some 15,000 coffee farmers. Already the signs are good. In 2013, South Sudanese farmers sent 1.8 metric tons of unroasted coffee beans to Nespresso in Switzerland. It was the country’s first ever non-oil export to Europe, and though the amount was small, the reception was ecstatic.

Like wine, good coffee comes from specific terroirs — climatic and soil conditions that create a distinct flavor profile. The signature aroma of a good South Sudanese coffee, according to Nespresso’s coffee experts, is of “cereals and plum.” Coffee originates from Africa’s Rift Valley, and the area now known as South Sudan was once known for coffee that was exported across the Middle East centuries ago. But decades of war, and a growing reliance on oil exports, saw the industry decline long before South Sudan became independent.

As anyone who has ever walked into a Nespresso boutique knows, the brand stakes its prestige on carefully cultivated coffee terrorirs, from Columbia to Ethiopia and Brazil. Most of those coffee-producing nations have spent decades building up markets and a reputation for quality that transcends any particular purveyor, be it Starbucks, Illy or Intelligentsia. In South Sudan, Nespresso has an opportunity to stamp its name on an entirely new coffee origin. In doing so it is capitalizing on novelty, quality and the feel-good aspects of investing in a good cause that happens to be backed by an international celebrity. “George did introduce us to South Sudan because of his passion for the country. But even though he is influential, we wouldn’t be interested in the country but for the fact that it has exceptional coffee,” says Daniel Weston, Nespresso’s Director of Creating Shared Value, a position that focuses on developing the communities that provide Nespresso its raw materials.

Coffee, as a commodity sold around the world at fluctuating prices, is not lucrative on a small scale. But if farmers develop a niche product that can be sold at a premium, they have a chance of creating a worthwhile livelihood that sustains their communities while minimizing environmental impacts. That’s where TechnoServe, which has been working in coffee for nearly 50 years, comes in. In South Sudan, their agronomists have essentially elevated a local product from the coffee equivalent of table grapes to a distinct cultivar that stands on its own when passed through an espresso machine. The farmers can then sell those beans to Nespresso, or anyone else, at a 40% premium. “A small farmer working an acre of land can produce the best and most valuable coffee in the world,” says TechnoServe CEO William Warshauer, speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum for Africa in Cape Town in early June. “We want the multinationals to make profits, and we want farmers to lift their families out of poverty. This project ticks both boxes.”

No one believes that coffee alone will pull South Sudan from the brink, least of all George Clooney. But it’s a start. “If there is to be lasting peace and prosperity in South Sudan, part of the equation will be a diversified economy and opportunities that benefit the people of the country,” says Clooney in a statement. “The investment by Nespresso and TechnoServe in South Sudan’s coffee sector, even while the conflict is ongoing, is providing much-needed income for hundreds of farmers and their families.” As with espresso, sometimes all that is needed is a quick shot to get things going.

TIME portfolio

The Best Pictures of the Week: Feb. 6 – Feb. 13

From the Ukrainian peace plan to Brazil’s worsening drought and the disarmament of South Sudan’s child soldiers to a sex-free Valentine’s Day in Bangkok, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

TIME South Sudan

South Sudan Rebel Leader Hopeful Peace Talks Will Resume

South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar speaks during an interview with Reuters in his office in Addis Ababa
Tiksa Negeri—Reuters South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar in his office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on July 9, 2014.

Rebel leader Riek Machar tells TIME that this time "I hope it will be different" — but experts aren't so sure it will be

The rebel leader in South Sudan’s yearlong civil war says he’s hopeful peace talks with the government will continue later this month, extending negotiations that could be the country’s last chance at long-term stability.

Rebel leader Riek Machar, the former vice president, agreed early Monday on a roadmap for forming a transitional government after five days of negotiations with President Salva Kiir in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, on the sidelines of the African Summit. The talks were brokered by envoys from the group of East African nations known as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

“We hope to continue discussions on the contentious issues on the 20th of February,” Machar told TIME in a phone interview on Monday, adding that both parties agreed to respect a ceasefire until then. “We will go and consult with all the constituencies.”

Fighting first began in Juba, the capital, in December 2013, as Kiir accused his former vice-president of orchestrating a coup. Violence rapidly spiraled into a national conflict along both political and tribal lines, and has continued ever since.

Both Machar and Kiir agreed to finalize an agreement by the end of March and establish a transitional government by July 9. But key issues, including the power of the presidency and the two deputies, remain unresolved, and it’s unclear if the two parties will be able to overcome their differences.

Machar described negotiations that began on Thursday and continued on and off until early Monday morning as cordial. “We laugh, we joke,” he said of his interactions with Kiir, a one-time ally, but accused government forces of breaking past ceasefires. This time, he said, “I hope it will be different.”

But experts say that’s unlikely to be the case, with at least six ceasefires broken by both sides over the past year. “I doubt that this agreement has really put us on path toward a solution to this conflict,” said David Abramowitz, vice president for policy at Humanity United. Extending the negotiations could be a way for both parties to “position themselves on the battlefield,” according to Abramowitz.

Still, observers say that if a peace deal is not reached soon, the fledgling country that split off from its northern neighbor in 2011 could be permanently fractured. “This is the moment of truth for South Sudan,” said Eric Reeves, an English professor at Smith College and an expert on Sudan and South Sudan, speaking as the negotiations were taking place.

The war’s toll on the country has been devastating. Since the fighting began, at least 10,000 people have been killed and nearly 2 million others displaced. While a massive international assistance effort led by the United Nations and other NGOs helped avert a feared famine this past year, ongoing fighting could disrupt the planting season in the spring and lead to widespread food shortages.

The East African countries heading up negotiations have threatened sanctions or even military intervention. But the group has been hobbled in part by ties between the warring parties and member countries, which include countries like Sudan and Uganda that have long-standing interests in South Sudan. This is now the “last chance” for South Sudan’s East African neighbors to broker peace, Abramowitz said. “If they fail, then others need to get engaged. And the signs are not good.”

Those others would include Western governments and the African Union (AU), which on Saturday threatened to impose sanctions on the warring parties in South Sudan. The United States, which played a key role in ending the Sudanese civil war in 2005 before the North and South split, has been slow to decide whether to push for an international arms embargo on the country amid internal debate in Washington.

Machar said he was open to an arms embargo, which some fear could have a disproportionate impact on the supply of arms to Kiir’s government, but he criticized sanctions as “misguided.”

“Sanctions do not create peace,” he said. “Those who want to make sanctions, they should help us reach an agreement instead of making sanctions.”

Hanging over the negotiations is a report drafted by an AU commission that is expected to identify those responsible for some of the atrocities that have been committed during the conflict. On Friday, Chairwoman of the Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said it would postpone the report’s release, despite calls from human rights groups to publish it in order to help establish accountability in the conflict.

“One of the reasons that we are where we are today is that past human rights abuses were not addressed by the political elites in South Sudan, and these challenges have been festering over years and years,” said Abramowitz. “We can’t allow them to do that again.”

TIME South Sudan

South Sudan President Signs Cease-Fire Agreement With Rebel Leader

TANZANIA-SSUDAN-UNREST-TALKS
AFP/Getty Images South Sudan's President Salva Kiir, left; Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete, center; and South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar, right, pose during talks on Oct. 20, 2014, in the northern Tanzanian tourist town of Arusha

Rebel commander Riek Machar would become Vice President under a proposed power-sharing deal

The government of South Sudan signed a cease-fire agreement with opposition rebel forces on Monday, signaling a possible end to the internal conflict that has ravaged the North African nation for more than a year.

The deal was signed by South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and rebel commander Riek Machar during talks in Ethiopia, Reuters reports.

The agreement proposes a power-sharing arrangement between the two leaders whereby Kiir would remain President and Machar would become Vice President, sources said, although negotiations on the details are still in progress and similar cease-fire deals have been ignored in the past.

More than 10,000 people have been killed and over a million rendered homeless by the violence, which first sparked in December 2013.

[Reuters]

TIME South Sudan

South Sudan Militant Group to Release 3,000 Child Soldiers

UNICEF Child soldiers at Cobra camp in Gumuruk, South Sudan go to a demobilization ceremony.

UNICEF calls it "one of the largest ever demobilizations of children."

Nearly three hundred children between ages 11 and 17 laid down their arms Tuesday, in the first step of an ambitious program to reintegrate some 3,000 child soldiers in South Sudan, according to UNICEF.

The children are members of the South Sudan Democratic Army Cobra Faction, a militant group in eastern Sudan whose leader, David Yau Yau, signed a peace agreement with the government last year amid ongoing violence in the country.

UNICEF, which helped broker the children’s release, said it would mark one of the largest demobilization of children soldiers ever. It expects the full handover to take weeks.

“These children have been forced to do and see things no child should ever experience,” UNICEF South Sudan Representative Jonathan Veitch said in a statement.

Since fighting broke out between President Salva Kiir and supporters of Vice President Riek Machar in December 2013, the country—which broke off from Sudan, its northern neighbor, in 2011—has been embroiled in a conflict between the government and rebel groups that has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced some 1.5 million others.

But the conflict has taken a disproportionate toll on children, forcing some 400,000 students out of school and prompting a surge in the number of child soldiers, according to Ettie Higgins, the deputy representative for UNICEF in South Sudan. Since the fighting began, an estimated 12,000 children have been recruited to fight with armed groups on both sides.

Now UNICEF and other organizations, in conjunction with the government, are aiming to return those children to their families.

“They’re happy to give their gun up and they just want to go to school,” Higgins said in a telephone interview from South Sudan after the first group of 280 children were released. “That’s been the key message we’re getting.”

UNICEF and its partner organizations said they will provide counseling and health care to the children as they attempt to reunite them with their families. The aid groups are also working with local communities, which have agreed to welcome back the children recruited by the Cobra Faction, to prevent discrimination and limit the chances that the children are again recruited.

But UN officials stress that the program risks stalling if funding dries up. UNICEF, which is appealing for $10 million in funding, says the process of reintigrating the children costs roughly $2,330 a child over two years.

“At the risk of sounding like other conflict zones, we don’t want to lose another generation here,” Higgins said. “These children, despite everything they’ve gone through, they’re still looking to the future. We mustn’t let them down.”

TIME the backstory

Photojournalism Daily: Nov. 13, 2014

Photojournalism Daily is a compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Maxim Dondyuk‘s work on tuberculosis in Ukraine. While not recent, they have been newly published on Paris Match‘s photo blog. Ukraine is designated as one of 18 “high-priority countries” by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, with some 42,000 absolute cases in 2012. The photographs, made in prison and hospital wards in the eastern region, powerfully illustrate the country’s battle with the disease and make it hard to imagine how things could improve as the brutal civil war rages.


Maxim Dondyuk: Tuberculosis in Ukraine (Paris Match L’Instant)

Peter Nicholls: Hunger amid tragedy for South Sudan refugees (Al Jazeera) These photographs draw attention to the plight of South Sudanese refugees in neighboring Ethiopia.

various photographers: Snapshots of Veteran Life Across America (Time.com) TIME collaborated with the Everyday USA photo collective to document veterans stories from all over America.

John G. Morris (CNN) The legendary photo editor speculates on alleged new information regarding the Robert Capa’s famous D-Day pictures.

War photographer Jason Howe’s battle with PTSD (The Telegraph) Sober portrait of a photographer processing years spent on the front lines. Text by Jessica Salter. Video by James Arthur Allen.

First Hassleblad camera in space to be auctioned by NASA (The Washington Post Insight) The fascinating tale of the first Hasselblad in space in 1962, the same brand used on the first moon mission seven years later.


Photojournalism Links is a compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen, Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.


TIME Pictures of the Week

Pictures of the Week: July 11 – July 18

From the escalating violence in Gaza and the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, to the growing influx of unaccompanied migrant minors entering the US and the rise of the Super Moon, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

TIME global health

Aid Group: Cholera Threatens Thousands in South Sudan

Zacharias Abubeker—AFP/Getty Images
Zacharias Abubeker—AFP/Getty Images South Sudanese refugees fetch water at a watering point in the Kule camp for Internally Displaced People at the Pagak border crossing in Gambella, Ethiopia, on July 10, 2014.

"Children are especially vulnerable."

Thousands of people in South Sudan are being put at risk by a cholera outbreak, says international aid group Save the Children. Cholera has infected 2,600 people in 9 of the the country’s 10 states, according to the group, leaving 60 dead since cases were first reported in May.

“Save the Children’s feeding clinics are dealing with an influx of severely malnourished children. We urgently need to further funds to provide families with life-saving food supplements,” said Save the Children’s Country Director Pete Walsh in a statement Friday.

The cholera outbreak is tied to an ongoing conflict in the country. South Sudan is home to a long-standing civil war, with the most recent violence escalating in December after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy of attempting to launch a coup.

Aid agencies are struggling to receive needed funding even as the fighting has pushed the country to famine. Save the Children says the seven major international aid agencies operating in the country face closure, currently short an excess of $92 million.

“We are seeing a lot of cases of malnutrition at our treatment centers,” Save the Children Director Francine Uenuma tells TIME. “Children are especially vulnerable.”

Save the Children is working closely with local treatment centers, hoping to develop assessment plans and prevention education. However, with the rainy season approaching, conditions are only expected to deteriorate further. Walsh says that flooded roads will only slow down the delivery of life-saving drugs.

 

 

 

TIME Out There

Shannon Jensen Wins the 2014 Inge Morath Award

Shannon Jensen has won this year’s Inge Morath Award for her project A Long Walk, which depicts Sudan refugees’ “worn-down, ill-fitting and jerry-rigged shoes”

Each year, the Inge Morath Foundation, founded in memory of the famous Austrian-born Magnum Photos member, honors a woman photographer under the age of 30 with the Inge Morath Award. The foundation presents the $5,000 award in support of the completion of a long-term documentary project.

American Shannon Jensen won this year for a series of images she produced documenting refugees who had fled the Blue Nile state in Sudan in May and June 2012. In total, more than 100,000 men, women and children have walked hundreds of miles across some of Earth’s harshest terrain to seek refuge in neighboring South Sudan.

When Jensen started documenting this humanitarian crisis, she found she was unable to sell the story to international media organizations, forcing her to adopt a different approach.

In A Long Walk, Jensen photographs the “worn-down, ill-fitting and jerry-rigged shoes” these refugees used to flee Khartoum’s campaign of violence.

“To be chosen for the Inge Morath Award by a jury as diverse and accomplished as the members of Magnum is something beyond my comprehension at the moment,” Jensen tells TIME in an email. “This is not a typical documentary project, so the affirmation is particularly appreciated.”

Three years ago, she adds, “a Magnum photographer advised me to trust myself, to stop worrying about taking ‘good’ pictures. He also suggested that I think beyond just assignment photography and consider the Inge Morath Award as inspiration, so it is very rewarding to now be selected for the award with a series of understated images that are very dear to me.”

Jensen plans to use the money from the award to return to South Sudan with a writer, and “produce what I hope will be an unusual book project,” she says.


Shannon Jensen is a US photographer represented by Reportage by Getty Images. She is based in the United Kingdom and South Korea.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent.


TIME Money

And the World’s Most Expensive City for Expats Is…

Caracas, Venezuela
Getty Images View of Central Caracas.

Down and out in Paris and London? Try spending a year in the world's biggest cost sinks, Venezuela, Angola or South Sudan

A new ranking of the world’s most expensive cities for expats knocked the usual candidates — New York, Tokyo and London — off of the list. The true epicenters of sticker shock were Venezuela, Angola and South Sudan.

Global staffing firm ECA International surveyed prices in 440 cities, focusing on items that expats were most likely to buy on a daily basis, including groceries, clothing and bar tabs. The cities that topped the list tended to fall in one of two areas: Wealthy swathes of Scandinavia and economies coming apart at the seams.

Caracas, Venezuela topped the list after runaway inflation hurdled the city from 32nd place to 1st in one year. Surveyors found price levels 40% above the second costliest city: Oslo, Norway. Luanda, Angola came in third partly due to import tariffs that have hiked the price for a half-liter tub of vanilla ice cream to $31. Rounding out the list was Juba, South Sudan, where a 90 kilometer drive along one of the only continuous roads to the outside world can take upwards of 24 hours to navigate, according to the World Bank.

The list offers a stark reminder that outside of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, the real sticker shock tends to hit the people who can least afford it.

Global Rank 2014 Country City
1 Venezuela Caracas
2 Norway Oslo
3 Angola Luanda
4 Switzerland Zurich
5 Switzerland Geneva
6 Norway Stavanger
7 Switzerland Bern
8 Switzerland Basel
9 South Sudan Juba
10 Denmark Copenhagen

Source: ECA International

 

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