When actor and World Vision Ambassador Hugh Jackman traveled to Ethiopia, a unique friendship opened his eyes to the difference that fair trade makes to coffee farmers.
While visiting the country’s Yirgacheffe region — the birthplace of coffee — Hugh, a coffee lover, and his wife Deborra-Lee Furness were inspired by 27-year-old coffee farmer Dukale and his wife Adanech, who were working with World Vision to lift their family out of poverty.
“When we spent time with his family,” says Deborra-Lee, “[we] heard that all he wanted for their kids was the chance at a better future. We shared a common bond.”
No escape from poverty without fair prices
Dukale works grueling hours to harvest his crops and maintain his farm, but factors outside of his control made running his businesses extremely difficult. Inefficient production methods limited his growth, and he lacked access to markets that offered a fair price for his product.
His family spent their days gathering firewood, making it impossible for his children to go to school or for his wife to pursue her business goals.
Hugh worked with Dukale on his farm. By spending time with Dukale, he learned that the coffee business is not set up to benefit the small farmer, and that he wouldn’t be able to change the way the world does business without getting involved.
“Going to Ethiopia with World Vision and meeting Dukale taught Deb and me what a difference fair trade makes to the income of farmers, and consequently their ability to break the cycle of poverty,” explains Hugh.
“Laughing Man” Coffee & Tea is born
“When we got back to the U.S. after meeting Dukale, we couldn’t just talk about him, we had to do something,” says Hugh.
Hugh loved the taste of Dukale’s coffee and wanted to market it, and Dukale needed better market access.
So together, they went into the coffee business. In 2011, Hugh launched Laughing Man Tea & Coffee, a coffee and tea company that values farmers and ensures fair compensation.
Laughing Man buys fair-trade coffee and tea from co-ops, including Dukale’s, and sells the products from their two Manhattan-based cafes. Their most popular blend is the Dukale’s Dream roast.
The difference that fair trade makes
Six years on from when Dukale first met Hugh and Deborra-Lee, his business is thriving.
World Vision partnered with Dukale to construct a methane gas system that converts cow manure into lamplight and cooking flame. His family no longer spends their days collecting firewood.
Dukale has increased production on his farm, hired more local workers, and re-invested his profits to buy more land.
His children are in school, his wife owns a small shop in the village, and he’s teaching his fellow farmers cutting-edge agricultural techniques.
Dukale’s Dream comes alive on screen
The film Dukale’s Dream highlights the challenges faced by farmers like Dukale. The movie documents the six-year journey that Hugh and Deborra-Lee embarked upon after traveling to Ethiopia.
At the heart of the documentary is Hugh and Deborra-Lee’s journey to better understand how to make an impact on extreme poverty, as they learn about the effectiveness of community development, fair trade, and education in reducing global poverty.
The film premiered in New York City on June 4, 2015, and can now be viewed via community screenings through Tugg, a web platform that lets viewers bring the movies they want to their local theater.
The film is also available in on-demand video streaming platforms, including iTunes.