Iceland Offers Geothermal Energy Training to Kenyans

This video has a list of things I love: sustainable energy that actually produces results, education, information exchange which serves to make African countries self-sufficient AND women from Kenya… what’s not to love?

Its only about 11 minutes long and it is SO worth watching.  Grab a cup of our fairtrade African coffee or tea and take a few minutes to learn about this neat project that finds Kenyan students wearing big jackets in Iceland! 🙂

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Mama’s Math: How to Upgrade to Delicious African (fair trade) Coffee and Save Lots of Money

Coffee is one of my favorite indulgences. I begin every morning with my coffee ritual and I know full well that I’m not alone. Many of you also look forward to that cup of coffee that starts your day.

But, every few months we hear yet again how much we’re spending and how that money could add up to a vacation or home over the years. “Skip that $5 latté and save hundreds”. Listen, I am the last person you’ll meet who will tell you to skip the pleasure that comes with a great cup of coffee! But, as for skipping the daily trip to the coffee shop; well, the math makes sense. Let’s do a simple problem to see:

I’m using a conservative estimate of $4 per cup of latté or other gourmet coffee (many run more than $4). At that price though, your daily cup costs you $1460 per year! Once you have caught your breath, join me for the rest of my math homework… don’t worry, the rest is so much easier to swallow!

Making coffee at home on the other hand costs less than 1/4 the price:

  • Coffee grinder: $15-$20
  • Coffee maker: $30-50
  • Incredible tasting fair trade coffee for a year: $312

_____________
$382 (using highest estimates)

So, you want a fancy latté or mocha? Add the following to your totals:

 

  • Hand-held frother: $12-$15 (FREE if you sign up for our 6 month or 1 year coffee of the month club)
  • Omanhene cocoa: $7.50 (per tin)

At the end of the day, your coffee cost stays the same annually and you only have to “invest” in the grinder, coffee maker and hand-held frother once.

Is it great to save so much money? Of course it is! But, money isn’t everything is it? Sure, it’s great that it only takes about 10 minutes a day (less than the time it takes to wait in line for your coffee). The best part of it all is: FLAVOR!! You will wonder why you waited so long.

Most companies have huge mark-ups on coffee and farmers see very little of the price that you pay. But, since all of our coffees are fair trade, you’ll have the bonus of knowing that you are supporting farmers who are being paid a fair price for their beans. Additionally, you’ll be helping African women and children through the donations that are made to the organizations we work with (a portion of all sales on MamaAfrika.com).

So here are my Top 3 reasons to join Mama’s Coffee of the Month Club:

  1. High quality fresh-roasted coffees (mailed only days after roasting!).
  2. Fair trade (and your built-in donation) means helping the poor live better lives.
  3. You’ll save enough money to treat yourself to something else wonderful (a plane ticket, a couple of incredible dinners or whatever else makes you smile)

Our coop members will thank you (and so will your wallet!)

10 Steps to a Great Cup of Coffee

Many of my friends already know how much I love coffee, African coffee in particular.  The thing is: I used to like coffee; but only a little.  I always thought coffee was OK and I never really felt that “kick” that many people drink it for.  So, it was a beverage like any other.  Honestly, it didn’t even rank in the top 3 for me.  I was never able to understand when people spoke of how dreary their day was because they hadn’t had their morning cup of Joe. I used to meet friends at the local (or large chain) coffee shop and sit and sip a latté.  But it was the experience, not the drink that made me truly happy.  I didn’t need the caffeine and could even have a cup immediately before going to bed with no real effect.  I had purchased those expensive whole bean coffees, bought an espresso machine, dealt with cleaning the blasted thing and still I couldn’t identify with those “coffee snobs” who talked about what was in their cup the way some people describe wine or expensive Cuban cigars (No, I’m not recommending you start smoking!). Terms like: bold, fruity, notes of chocolate… Frankly, they meant nothing to me.  Man, have times changed!

You see, ever since I starting selling fair trade (and often organic) African coffees… I fell in love. I had no earthly idea what I was missing all of those years! Once I learned “the basics” from my coffee roaster, my life was changed.  I’m talking night and day here!  I still remember that first shipment of freshly roasted African coffee: I didn’t even have to open the box to smell it: incredible to the senses!  I ground a batch immediately and put it into my regular old Mr. Coffee, adjusting the setting to “strong”.  With those few little bits of advice from our roaster… my life transformed.

I still don’t feel that “eyes wide open” feeling that many of you get from coffee.  But, I smile a little bit less in the morning when I don’t have my “cup of Africa” as we call it in my house.  You see, I am in love with African coffees now.  In love with the deep rich flavor that comes with freshly ground beans that wree roasted just days before.  I’m going to share with you the tips that I’ve learned over the years.  Some seem elementary; but if you are used to that “other stuff”; many of these steps aren’t worth the time they take.  After all, if you are using coffee that was ground months ago… the type of water might not make much difference!  Try these steps though… all of them… and you might just find out what I did: Coffee is magical. It’s a way to enjoy travel: Every morning, I feel like I’m sitting with a dear friend in Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia or Zimbabwe and drinking in the sounds and sights of Africa while sipping that simple pleasure called coffee.  Join me!

10 Steps to a Great Cup of Coffee

  1. Believe it or not, you really don’t need an expensive espresso machine to make a great cup of coffee.
  2. Always use freshly roasted beans.  Coffee loses flavor over time; so freshly roasted beans are always your best bet.
  3. Clean your grinder and coffee brewer regularly to prevent build-up of oils which can alter the flavor of your coffee and eventually give it a rancid flavor.
  4. Grind your coffee beans immediately before brewing. Exposure to air slowly makes coffee grounds taste stale.
  5. Use the right setting on your grinder (depending on your brew method).
  6. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes: start with 2 tablespoons of coffee per 6 ounces of water.  Adjust based on your personal taste.
  7. The higher the quality of the water, the better the quality of your coffee.
  8. When making drip coffee, it is best to stir or swirl the pot when finished to thoroughly mix the coffee because the coffee toward the bottom will be stronger since it was brewed first.
  9. If you are making your coffee in advance; don’t leave your coffee on the burner or warmer or it can scorch and change the flavor.  Use a thermos instead.
  10. If you want to remember only one phrase I’ve written, make it this one: Freshly roasted, freshly ground, freshly brewed… and fair trade of course! 😉

Mama’s guest Joseph Scarantino Talks Tech in Africa

Allow me to introduce Joseph Scarantino, whom I have a lot of respect for. I’ve spent the past few months reading his tweets on Twitter (@jscarantino) and learning a lot in the process. He’s clearly passionate about Africa and technology. I’ve invited him to answer a few questions about where his passions meet each other.  Now, onto the questions:

Welcome and thanks for taking the time from your really busy schedule to answer some questions. Let’s dive right in.

1. I read on your website (JosephScarantino.com), that your passion for Africa began when you were a teen. Can you tell us more about the role that young people can play in the future of Africa? Young people are at a pivotal point in their lives where they interact with other young people on a very local and viral sense much different than adults. This gives them an advantage of getting involved in causes on a completely different level. One of the ways they can play a role in the future of Africa is by volunteering in local community or nonprofit efforts that are already making a difference in Africa. There are many groups out there doing great work that need a volunteer for an hour or two every week. Even better, young people can tell their peers about activities they are doing and open up many other people to dialogue about things that are happening in Africa. Many of the greatest efforts I’ve seen from young people happen right in their own schools when they make an effort to focus some of their school projects on Africa. This has a double impact by helping to break the cycle of misinformation about Africa that is so prevalent. Having said that, I think the burden ultimately lies on the nonprofits to get creative with young people and figure out new ways to keep them engaged.

2. Traditionally the high tech sector has been led by North America, Asia and Europe. Do you see Africa’s influence gaining ground anytime soon? I definitely do and we are already seeing signs of Africa’s influence increasing, particularly in the realm of mobile banking and the rise of technology incubators and co-working spaces such as the new iHub in Nairobi and Limbe Labs in Cameroon, among others. Technological progress in Africa is everywhere we look, but is often happening on a much more micro-level than what we are accustomed to (i.e. the Microsoft’s and Apple’s of the West) until the big breakthrough happens. An example of progress would be the number of mobile users currently using mobile banking as their primary way of trading money. In many ways Africa is leapfrogging developed countries in technology use and the innovation is everywhere on that continent from mobile to Web. Without a doubt, we will see a true technological revolution in Africa this decade.

3. In your opinion, what countries show the most promise and why? Well, the obvious technology leaders of today are often distinguished as Nigeria, Kenya & South Africa, but many smaller countries are poised to rise up and become technology leaders in the next 5-10 years such as Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda, Malawi and many others. My forecast is that many of these smaller countries are going to excel in technology much faster due to the very nature of their size and scale of economies. Rwanda in particular has a great opportunity pending their government’s willingness to keep the economy open and operating on a free-market. I have my eye on Rwanda but don’t let the size of these smaller countries fool you.

4. Some disagree with the view that high tech is what we should invest in. They say that it is more important to put resources into basic infrastructure such as roads, education and access to food and clean water. What is your response to their views? This argument isn’t anything new. I certainly don’t disagree that money needs to be allocated to infrastructure needs first and foremost. However, having said that, technology is undoubtedly now a part of those infrastructure needs and must be considered equally, particularly in regards to education and communication. I believe the right approach is to analyze what the needs are and go from there. It is impossible to make a generic assessment of Africa as a whole when each country has a separate set of obstacles they are facing and are at different economic crossroads. Some need technology more than others, but all can use it in areas that will benefit the bottom line. It’s more of a matter of timing and necessity. People are quickly finding out that Africa is a continent of great economic diversity, so there are a lot of things to take into consideration when facing this question. It’s not so easy to disagree with technology when it is quickly becoming the solution to many of these problems.

5. Do you think that tech (i.e.: Access to, cybercafés, cell phones, wireless internet, etc.) is a “plus” or is it an essential component in Africa’s basic development? Even if I did not work in the technology field, I would most definitely say it is a necessity to have in Africa. We need to change the mindset to think in terms of access to information, education, and human rights. Whether people are examining the human rights benefit of technology or the economic benefit of technology, having access to information through technology empowers people on multiple levels. Technology connects people, it empowers people, it increases access to information, it does all of these things and more to everyone’s benefit. Once we put information in its proper context, then we can begin to make choices that have lasting effects on society.

6. As I’m sure you know, one of my passions is women and children in Africa. I understand the role that fair trade plays in improving their lives. Would you tell me what role high tech can play in making the average rural mother’s life better? The first example that springs to mind comes from the fact that African women make up over 60 percent of the agricultural workforce. Yet there is very little data out there about their agricultural practices in regards to gender and how that yield (big or small) affects the family from a community level to a national production level. Technology is helping these women learn from each other to improve their agricultural practices as well as form farming co-ops. It is also technology that helps feed this data to entities ranging from local governments to international NGO’s so they know where the need exists and what has worked versus what has not worked. All of this can be done from a simple cell phone. More recently, the UN launched an innovative program called the Agri-Gender Statistics Toolkit that does exactly that and I’m sure there are plenty of other examples to follow. Another agriculture-related example is how mobile technology is helping women check prices of their produce throughout the region before heading to market. In the information age, data rules and the person with the most up-to-date and accurate data has the advantage. Technology is helping women all over the continent, and often in areas where we least suspect it. I’m still being surprised by how new technology is helping people in rural areas.

7. What projects are you currently working on (or hearing about) that have you most excited? I am currently pouring all of my time into the African Tech Network, a for-profit initiative to help bring benefits to Africans working in technology. The idea behind ATN is to build community among technologists, create tangible opportunities for economic benefit, and to contribute to their continuing education. It’s a three-pronged approach that is already having some positive results with members from 10 countries so far. One of my partners, Simeon Oriko, is a bright young man from Kenya who has given me much inspiration to move forward with this initiative. So far, the rest of the tech community has been very supportive and I believe some really great things are ahead of us. On a side note, I do have to say that there is never a dull moment working on tech in Africa. Constant progress is being made and the people you get to work with are truly inspiring. I wouldn’t pick any other industry to work in.

8. Finally, what is Africa Gathering and how can it improve the life of a mother or child in the poorest regions of Africa today?
Africa Gathering is an informal meet-up about people from all walks of life coming together to share innovative ideas that have Africa at the center of their focus. What I believe Africa Gathering can do is offer a forum for anyone who might have an idea that could directly benefit African mothers and their children. Whether the idea is based in technology or not, Africa Gathering is a great place to tell others about something you are doing that is having a positive impact. It doesn’t even have to be an idea, but can be a functioning nonprofit or business that you would like to share with the world. Also, the relationships you will build from any Africa Gathering meeting are priceless. I left the Washington DC Africa Gathering feeling energized and very encouraged. Many of the people I met there I had only met online, so it was much like a reunion of sorts.

I know you are a really busy guy and your willingness to come by Mama’s Round Table to chat is greatly appreciated! So, again, thanks so much for your time and most of all for sharing your viewpoint with my readers! It really means a lot to me and to them.