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Backyard Tilapia Farming: German and Ester’s Story

Backyard Tilapia Farming: German and Ester’s Story

For years farmers like German were forced to work for giant haciendas in the region of Piedra de Horeb in Honduras. But, German with the help of Agros found another way to provide for his family — backyard tilapia farming.

German looked to backyard tilapia farming. But in order to have a backyard tilapia fish farm you need big water tanks. With no other option but to work for the haciendas again, German began digging. German dug and dug for 6 months with nothing but a pickaxe. At times, he felt like giving up, but he was encouraged by his children and his wife, Ester. His daughter dug the first shovelful of dirt, and she knew it would give her a future because German told her it would belong to her and give her opportunity.

Now, well-organized, they’ve created their own sustainable, registered, and profitable business. They consistently supply in-demand tilapia to markets that guarantee a steady income. German calls backyard tilapia farming, “el encanto y el esfuerzo” — the enchantment and the struggle. The struggle for the back breaking work of digging each tank and the enchantment for the taste of success come harvest time. German describes their first harvest as “like a party,” that gave hope and inspiration to the community.

Using the growth from backyard tilapia farming, German and Ester have also branched out into other business opportunities. Ester now has her own corn maize that she makes and sells to her community. This diversification of income enables German and Ester to better provide for their children’s future.

Witnessing the success of Piedra’s backyard tilapia farm is an encouraging and promising glimpse at what the future can look like for all of our communities if we implement this market-driven strategy on a much larger scale in the future. Some say give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Using the Agros model we take that one step further. Teach a man to own the pond and he feeds himself, his family, and his community for generations to come.

1% of all Coffee Lovers Club subscriptions goes back to Agros to help families like German and Ester’s build a future for themselves. Thank you for making a difference with your daily cup of coffee.

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An Interview with Ira Lippke

An Interview With Ira Lippke

I recently got a chance to spend about 30 minutes on the phone with Ira Lippke. For those that may not follow us on Twitter or Facebook – or possibly just missed the messages we’ve sent, Ira is responsible for much of the photography you see on CICR’s website and some literature. He also plays a big role in the photography found on Agros’ website. Ira is a gifted photographer who is passionate about fair trade and ethical coffee.

I wanted to share a large excerpt of our conversation with you all…

Dan: What started your love for photography?

Ira: One day I was at the Stanwood (Washington) library. We had just picked up some pictures from the local photo lab and while my parents went in, I was sitting in the car looking through these family snapshots. I was 14 at the time, and I realized a couple things while looking through those pictures:

  • I realized that I had so much to be grateful for. There was so much beauty everywhere surrounding me. Looking at the pictures enabled me to objectively stand outside of my life and realize I had a lot to be grateful for.
  • Photography is such a powerful medium.
  • Our photos weren’t very good. It seemed that most of the photos I ever saw were dark, grainy, and lacking detail and quality. I wanted to know how to take a good picture, so I ended up going in to the library and checked out a couple books on photography. My father let me borrow his old Olympus camera and I was set.

I would often go with my friend David and take pictures just for the fun of it. Our main goal was just to take interesting photos of things we would see everyday. I ended up attending Biola University and I got the job as the university photographer. At the time, I was studying History, Philosophy, and Literature – I was working towards a Humanities Degree. During my years at Biola, I was able to pay my way through school with photography. I became known as “the photographer” among many at school. My Junior year, I took a break and started my business while living in Warm Beach (Washington). I did a lot of photography for bands at the time and shot various album cover pictures.

Dan: Did you go back to school after starting your business and finish your degree?
Ira: Yes, I finished my education at Biola and received my degree in Humanities – Which I feel adds a little more substance and content to my photography rather than if I had studied photography itself. My pictures are about these same dramas and questions that literature, history and philosophy are about. I love telling stories and showing the human element. It’s been 10 years since I started my business and I now have two locations… first in Los Angeles and one in New York.

Dan: What photography style would you say is your “main” style?
Ira: I describe what i do as “Fine Art Documentary Photography”. It’s a photography approach that tells stories, but with an awareness of the elements of fine art (line, color, texture and form). These days I’ve been shooting some of the top weddings in the world, and also documenting humanitarian issues internationally. I go from shooting tragic issues in remote areas and then several days later find myself photographing VIPs in Beverly Hills, Italy, Pebble Beach, or the Turks & Caicos. This creates a really telling contrast. I’ve shot some remarkably exquisite weddings – but then I go to these really grounding areas which really fills out the human element for me.

Dan: How did you hear about Agros?
Ira: I’m good friends with Sean Dimond at Agros. I knew Sean before he worked for Agros and he has always been involved in humanitarian work. He told me about Agros and not long after got a job there. He is now the Director of Communications for Agros.

Dan: How many trips have you been on with Agros and where to?
Ira: I’ve gone on a total of 4 trips with Agros and have visited Honduras, Nicaragua, Chiapas, and Guatemala.

Dan: What was it that made you decide that Agros was a fit for you?
Ira: I always refer to Agros as my favorite charity. As I’ve travelled to Africa 4 times, Indonesia 2 times, the Middle East, India and quite a few other places, I often find myself in areas where humanitarian groups are working. Typically, solutions involve the West giving charity away to these areas but, unfortunately that is often times damaging to the local economy and the local sense of dignity. Charity of that nature can create a culture of dependence and undercut the local economy.

When I was recently in Southern Malawi I asked the chief of one of the tribes where I could go to take documentary photos. He sent me to his home village that, it turned out, he sends all visiting humanitarian groups. While I was there, people kept telling me how they needed more help for this and that and they were continuously asking for money. The generosity of the West had created a dependance there. Agros villages are the exact opposite. They are proud of what they’ve done and they are so generous. They don’t ask for money, but instead they often come up to me with big smiles and plates of food. It’s a different experience from other models I’ve experienced.

What I love about Agros is that they empower those in need to help themselves – and does it through the local economy rather than by undercutting it. It’s so much more sustainable that way. It shows that the solution is through hard work, and not handouts. Agros’ work is so humane and dignifying. It’s been an honor to get to know and document these extraordinary people living in Agros Villages. Honestly, these hard-working, hope filled Agros villagers are my heroes.

I had a great conversation with Ira. One thing that is hard to relay in type, is passion. Ira is definitely passionate about his love of Agros and their work.

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed doing the interview and putting it together for you!

Dan Ericson
“Coffee Guru”

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An Ethical Coffee Meeting with Agros International

An Ethical Coffee Meeting with Agros International

This past Wednesday, Dan and I had the opportunity to visit Agros HQ in Seattle. It was a great time and they were very hospitable to us.  We were able to share some of the new things CICR has been working on.  Many new faces (for me at least) were there for the meeting.

Our customers all know of our close relationship with Agros as we talk about it all the time.  Just as it’s important for us to communicate to you the changes you create through being members of our Coffee Lover’s Club, it’s also important for us to spend time communicating our focus on ethical coffee with Agros as well.  For us, giving Agros a check from our Coffee Lover’s Club orders is only a sustainable act if we can also communicate with Agros and allow them to communicate back.  Knowing of Agros’ future goals is part of responsible giving and ethical coffee.  Allowing Agros to communicate their goals back is part of responsible receiving.  We’re so happy to have a wonderful relationship with Agros.

Dan brought his camera and took a few pictures in between making Frozen X-plosion’s and serving brewed coffee.

The table we sat at had a wonderfully colorful tablecloth.  Emily at Agros provided Dan and I very delicious sandwiches! Shannon grabbed Dan’s camera when he came out with the Frozen X-plosion’s for everyone and took a couple great pictures: Here are a few of the Agros workers enjoying Frozen X-plosion’s. The purpose of our visit was for me to share CICR’s vision for ethical coffee with Agros and “update” them on the things happening around CICR. All-in-all, we had a great time celebrating ethical coffee and sustainability.

Jeff – CICR

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Give a man a fish: Redefining Charity in the 21st Century.

give a man a fish

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. We’ve all heard this saying. We’ve also heard, “Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Here at CICR we like to take this saying a step further. Let me show you.

“Give a man a fish? What if he could own the pond?

Western culture’s concept of charity is generally “Give a man a fish.” Some take this a step further, and “Teach a man to fish.”

Here at CICR, we’re a little more entrepreneurial than that. We want to, “Teach the man to own the pond!” If a man owns the pond he not only changes his life but the lives of his children and grandchildren. Land-ownership eliminates poverty — generationally.

Owning the pond: Sustainable Agriculture.
give a man a fish

Through our partnership with Agros we can help the man own the pond. Agros provides land-ownership programs to farmers in developing countries. Now, before you ask, Agros doesn’t just give them the land. No way. That’s “Give a man a fish.” That’s not sustainable. Instead Agros provides the financing to purchase the land — at low interest or no interest at all. Within 7 years whole villages of farmers have “deed burning” parties — celebrating their status as landowners.

As Agros supporters, we’ve seen the entrepreneurial results of dollars invested in these communities. It’s amazing to see how so much can be accomplished with so little. Check out to see for yourself.

While giving a person money is generous, it is not always wise. When you help people with the proper training and give them the opportunity to own their own land -watch out! The human spirit takes over and change happens!

But What Has This Got To Do With Ethical Coffee?

Give a man a fishFor every shipment of coffee we send out we give $1 back to Agros. By giving to Agros with every shipment we tie this model of charity directly to you — the consumer. You become part of this process. With something as simple and beautiful as a cup of coffee you can be a part of redefining charity in the 21st century. With every sip you generationally change farmer’s lives. That’s ethical coffee!

That’s why we would love for you to be a part of the process. Let’s face it. You’re going to buy coffee anyway. Why not be a part of a greater movement. Don’t just write a check during the Holidays! That’s like “Give a man a fish.” Be a part of sustainable agriculture in the developing world — “Teach him to own the pond!”

Thank you for your help!

Jeff – CICR

Want to do more than “Give a man a fish?”

Click below and we’ll send you a sample of free coffee to get you started.