Thursday, October 23, 2008

New Links For Your Information!

Greetings from rainy Uganda!

An important component of Fair Trade is information dissemination. As part of our mission to promote the movement, we have added a link section to our blog (this will also be available on our website) to articles about fair trade, links to websites dealing with fair trade (certification organizations, info shops, online fair trade stores, etc.) and links to various articles and sites about Uganda itself! We will also periodically be writing feature articles about various fair trade coops, organizations and businesses to help promote those groups and the movement as a whole! So please feel free to click the links on the right hand size of the blog and learn and shop to your heart's content!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Join the Awava Campus Reps Program!!

Hey guys!!! Among the many exciting things Awava is doing, one is setting up a Campus Reps Program and looking for a Media Consultant! I know not all of you are undergrads, but you may know some who would be interested!! So.....please join Awava by informing any college students you may know who would be interested in getting involved with Awava about the opportunity described below!!!!


Kate von Achen
Awava Founding Director

Awava and The Awava Foundation is a fair trade craft business accompanied by a holistic development foundation currently working in several areas of Uganda. Our website is currently under construction ( and is expected of launch at the first of November. Here people will be able to buy our products (10 percent of Awava’s annual profits will go into the foundation) and make donations to The Awava Foundation. Our blog is available at

Awava works with Women artisans throughout Uganda in conflict and post-conflict areas, providing income generating activities (IGAs), access to a Western market, a higher wage for their products, design assistance to help ensure that products will be widely marketable in the Western market and is committed to setting up a “raise” system where every six months, if seventy-five percent of an artisan’s or artisan group’s products have sold, they will receive a one percent increase to their labor prices.

The Awava Foundation’s goal is to provide small grants (not micro-loans) to Ugandan nationals with innovative entrepreneurial ideas. We will not only be giving money. In addition to providing full grant support and monitoring, those awarded grants will also be given training in basic business skills, be exposed to various business models and in areas where appropriate, will be trained in basic computer skills (MS Word and Excel) and web skills such as email and internet research. This will allow grantees to see what is marketable in the West and allow them to connect with the Western market, hopefully finding a place for their products. Uganda is also rapidly becoming more IT savvy within the capitol city of Kampala, though those with little or no education in the villages are being left behind more and more each day. These skills will not only help producers market their items abroad, but at home as well. The establishment of a legitimate business will also provide the track record for local entrepreneurs to access larger grants from groups such as USADF.

Awava, in partnership with The Awava Foundation, are looking for undergraduate volunteers (Campus Representatives) to:

• Help identify vending opportunities on and around campus and host these events;

• Possible speaking events (brown bag series, etc.) on and around campus;

• Assist with information dissemination;

• Etc.

Awava and The Awava Foundation are also looking for two skilled undergraduate volunteers who are interested in African studies and/or Fair Trade and Media to:

• Track articles about fair trade and/or Uganda from national and international news sources for our website, reporting these to the Director on a weekly basis;

• Assist in the writing of press releases; website material and informational hand outs.

If you are interested in being a Campus Representative or Media Consultant, please answer and submit the questions below, submit your CV and have one professional letter of recommendation sent to: Kate von Achen at no later than December 1, 2008.

Application Essay Questions
Awava & The Awava Foundation Campus Representative & Media Consultant Program


Please answer the questions below so that we can get a sense of who you are and how you feel about the mission of Awava and The Awava Foundation. Each response must not exceed 500 words.

Question 1: How do you think fair trade and economic development relate to peace building?

Question 2: If you could spend an afternoon with three individuals who would they be and why?

Question 3: How does this volunteer opportunity align with your academic and career goals?

Good luck and we hope to hear from you soon!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Wheels Turning - Back to My Fair Trade Roots

Our first real blog is long overdue, and I am sorry for that! Things have been busy for Awava, getting everything set up, meeting with artisans, designing products and placing orders!

We have gotten some excellent feedback from our inaugural post. Thank you so much to everyone who has given all kinds of support, be it encouragement, money, volunteering your time and skills, etc. This is going to be a wild and exciting ride because of you all!

Last week I traveled to Soroti to visit my old housemate Daniel. Daniel has been working in Latome and Soroti for the past few months with DED and is preparing to return to Germany (but he will be back). Daniel knew that I had been interested in finding a group of Women who make various types of beaded jewelry, and he found one! Daniel had samples made and they were wonderful! These Women live in Latome—Karamoja, an area which continues to experience conflict which is underreported by both international and national media. Awava hopes to bring attention to this conflict while providing income generating activities (IGAs) for those caught in the middle.

Soroti is a beautiful little town set down in the middle of a flat landscape. Outside of town, there are periodic rock formations that are nothing like I’ve ever seen. It is said that these massive, rather out-of-place mountains of sorts were used in delineating between tribes. Their structure is as mysterious as Devils Tower and Stonehenge to me.

Soroti is about the same size as Gulu (where most of my time outside Kampala has been spent), but the architecture is completely different. There is a definite India feel within the town, which is home to beautiful Hindi and Sikh temples. The buildings are all low with ornate designs decorating the doors, windows and tops of the buildings. The roads were well maintained (although dusty, of course), there were few cars or motorcycle bodas (taxis) and people were friendly.

Soroti was a very nice break from Kampala, and it was hard to leave. I only had a day and a half to enjoy the place because I had to get to Mbale to help my Ugandan family with their coffee harvest!

My first trip to Uganda was with United Students for Fair Trade ( We traveled to Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda studying fair trade coffee. JJ, my Ugandan dad, started the fair trade coffee coop in Uganda which we were studying (Mirembe Kawomera). He is absolutely one of the most amazing people I have EVER met. I met Lauren and Jon in Mbale, and we went and stayed with JJ and helped with the coffee harvest. On Friday we celebrated Shabbat with the slaughtering of a turkey (rest in peace Fred), and were forbidden to work on Saturday. We had made plans to go an meet with Kikyre, the current president of the coop, and his wife made us food (even though they were fasting for Ramadan)as we watched a pirated copy of the Black Entertainment Awards.

The day was winding down and we still needed to make it to the main market in Mbale town to purchase beads for the Women in Latome from Martin. This was all I knew. We found him with very little problem (the Mbale market is surprisingly orderly!) and bough A TON of beads!!

We headed back up into the village, back to JJ’s house, just before Shabbat came to an end. We pulled up on bodas and there was a new little boy added into the mix (there are children everywhere at JJ’s house). Lauren and I looked at each other and she said, “Is that Aron?!” Aron was the star of the fair trade trip. Then four, he was one of the cutest kids in the world and one of the biggest flirts. It had been two years since I had seen him, and I thought it would be even longer because he stays at boarding school much of the year. Now Aron is six and he’s still one of the cutest kids in the World! We sat in the living room, JJ playing guitar and singing while Aron fell asleep sitting up next to me. It was wonderful.
The next day was an early day! Lauren, Jon and I got up at 7am (that’s sleeping in to a coffee farmer) to help pick coffee before going into town to catch a bus back to Kampala. We picked for about an hour (a great task for someone quitting smoking, let me tell you) and then sat around and said our goodbyes to the family.

In August, there was an article about JJ and the coffee cooperative in Oprah magazine. JJ had two copies sent to him, so I was sure to get a photo of JJ and Aron reading the article in Oprah magazine. It is wonderful.

We headed back to Kampala with dirty fingernails and smiles on our faces.

This last week has been hectic but great. I was really, really sick for about 24 hours, and then had a ton of catching up to do on everything and there’s still so much to do!

A lot has been accomplished for Awava which is fantastic! Our first round of all products have been ordered (materials purchased and sent to Soroti, Gulu or kept right here in Kampala), we have a handful of US and Uganda sales scheduled for November and December (stay tuned!!), labels are being made, our staff of volunteers is growing quickly and enthusiastically and I have much to be thankful and excited for. And so do you!

To purchase Mirembe Kawomera coffee (there’s a chance Lauren, Jon or I picked or cleaned it ourselves) visit the Thanksgiving Coffee website (they buy 100% of the coops coffee because they’re awesome) at!!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

About a w a v a. and How to Get Involved!

awava: Luganda word meaning source or origin.

At Awava, we believe in order to reach sustainable peace in Uganda and beyond, access to resources is essential. These resources include, but are not limited to: access to a reliable financial income, clean water, education and food.

Our mission is not one of charity, but of economic empowerment, for if you “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” In assisting Awava’s artisans with design and providing Western market access, we at Awava are not only providing a space in which marginalized Women in Uganda can sell their masterpieces, but ensuring that these products will sell. By ensuring the sale of these products at a fair price, Awava’s artisans will be able to gain access to precious resources, therefore empowering themselves through their skills.

The idea of Awava started in the summer of 2006 when Kate von Achen and Lauren Parnell Marino traveled to East Africa together with United Students for Fair Trade ( to study fair trade coffee production in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. During the trip, von Achen and Parnell Marino experienced firsthand the positive effects of fair trade on producers and identified ways in which the system needed to be improved.

Awava has now become a reality with von Achen and Parnell Marino finding themselves back in Uganda studying and working within the fair trade world.

von Achen moved to Kampala, Uganda in August 2007 to obtain her Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies with a focus on Women in Post-conflict Development at Makerere University. During the past year, von Achen helped to start a successful fair trade business with Women tailors from northern Uganda. von Achen was the Country Director, and oversaw all operations on the ground (from building relationships with the tailors, to buying fabrics, to assisting with grant applications and implementation).

Parnell Marino returned to Uganda in June 2008 to resume working with Uganda Craft, a fair trade craft store in Kampala through which she had previously conducted much of her undergraduate thesis research before graduating from Northwestern Universiy.

Upon Parnell Marino’s return to Kampala, the two began discussing their dreams of starting a business which went beyond fair trade, hopefully impacting the future of the fair trade movement. They also wanted to focus on marginalized Women artisans from all over Uganda, not just one particular group being affected by a singular conflict. Awava is working with Women artisans from the following areas:

• Gulu District (northern Uganda): northern Uganda is a region which has been terrorized by a 22+ year civil war with Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army. While the peace accords have yet to be signed, a cease fire agreement has been respected since 2006. People are slowly starting to move out of the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps and back to their villages.

• Karamoja District (north-eastern Uganda): The Karamojong are primarily agro-pastoral herders who have been experiencing various conflicts, within their own group and with neighboring societies - primarily due to cattle raids. Traditional Karamojong belief is that they own all cattle by divine right: cattle ownership is crucial in the negotiation of bride price, and cattle raiding is seen as a right of passage to young Karamojong men.

• Kampala (the capitol city and its suburbs): The people of Kampala come from all over the country in search for income. The informal economy is booming with street hawkers selling food, new and used clothing and accessories, various knick-knacks for the home, etc. It is difficult for most to find a steady income, Women especially. While Kampala and its surrounding areas may not be experiencing violent conflict, conflict is still very much present.

Awava aims to be different from other fair trade businesses by focusing not only on conflict and post-conflict development, but also by creating The Awava Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit to help support various social programs involving the groups in which we work. Ten percent of all of Awava’s annual sales will go into the foundation to promote the various social programs working on the ground.

The Awava Foundation will not be providing charity service, but will establish small grant funds. In order for individual artisans or artisan cooperatives to qualify for a grant, they must write a proposal with an indigenous idea. The Awava Foundation volunteers will be there to provide logistical support and funding once the idea is approved.

How to Help

Awava and The Awava Foundation are both fledgling ventures which need as much support from friends and other like-minded individuals as possible. Currently our staff consists of a small group of volunteers. While we can always use more volunteers, we are also looking for additional start up capital to get our project(s) moving full steam.

If you are able to make a donation, investment or contribute a temporary loan, we would be beyond appreciative.

For donations, investments and loans we invite you to mail checks made out to Kate von Achen to:

Kate von Achen
1346 E. 2350 Rd.
Eudora, KS 66025

For the time being, donations are not tax deductible, and will be sent through Kate's personal checking account. The Awava Foundation is in the process of applying for 501(c)(3) non-profit status, and the for profit business and non-profit foundation cannot open their specific business bank accounts until Kate returns to the U.S. from Uganda in December 2008. We will, however, be tracking all donations and small loans given, and information regarding such things can be requested at any time. We can also provide a detailed account of where all money has been spent.

Thank you for your generosity and support-

The Awava Team