40% of the company shares are owned by tribals who constitute around 80% of the staff.

Empowerment in a cup This coffee is organic and comes straight from Adivasi growers in the NilgirisRepresentational image
Features Tribal Coffee Thursday, November 24, 2016 - 13:05

Want to have a cup of coffee prepared from beans cultivated by the Adivasis of the Nilgiris! This could soon be possible, with the ‘Adivasi Kappi (Coffee) Society’ venturing to bring the authentic taste of coffee to different cities in South India.

The Kappi society comes under an umbrella association known as the Adivasi Munnetra Sangam (AMS) which was established in 1988 in the Gudalur valley under leadership of Stan Thekaekara -a Malayali based in Bengaluru- and his wife Mari. 

It was in 2002 that the AMS formed a company ‘Just Change India’ (JCI). 40% of the company shares are owned by tribals who constitute around 80% of the staff. 

A few months ago, the Kappi Society decided to market its products in three cities of Kerala, and is now available at the Ledhi Art Café at Palarivattom in Kochi, Welgate in Thiruvananthapuram and Elements in Kozhikode. 

This special brand of coffee is also available in Delhi, Goa, Bengaluru and Chennai. It can also be ordered online through the website -The Coffee Gatherer.

Speaking to The News Minute, Tony Jose -marketing manager at JCI in Kochi- says that the product is fully organic: “No added preservatives or artificial taste-makers are to be found in this brand of coffee. The tribals prefer to grow and process the coffee beans in a traditional manner that definitely does not involve the use of chemicals to fertilize the soil.”

According to the data provided by Tony, 75 families are involved in the cultivation of coffee, with many other families involved in cultivation of honey and tea too. 200 kilos of coffee beans were produced last year.

Tony claims that it is one among the very few firms that is directly run by tribals. “The profits garnered go directly to them, as they are the owners. Transparency is maintained, as they have their representatives on the Board as well as in the Trust that is in charge of the company,” he says.

The AMS came into being to empower the marginalized tribals in the area. Today, there are about 12,500 members spread over 200-odd villages in the Gudalur and Pandalur taluks of the Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu.

In its 28 years of journey, the AMS has had a say in the betterment of health, education, legal-aid, cultural-revival and economic prospects of tribals in the area. 

They have common community assets like plantations, and a company whose profit is shared among the tribals. Interestingly, 90% of the stake holders of the assets owned by AMS are tribals.


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