Located on the Bolaven Plateau in Laos, 2454 families, in 64 villages, make up the Jhai Coffee Farmer’s Cooperative. This coffee is all about empowerment. With diseases related to poor hygiene being the number two killer of Lao children under five years old, Jhai Coffee directly supports the installation of clean water wells and hygiene programs at schools in the region. Additionally, Jhai has implemented farmer education and technical infrastructure to enable the community to receive the maximum earnings for their hard work.

Janelle Kaz and her boyfriend Tyson Adams are two young Americans who have made it their mission to move to the Bolaven plateau in southern Laos to help the local coffee growing community break the cycle of poverty and address the country’s clean water and sanitation crisis.

Janelle and Tyson both have experience that is relevant to the cause. Tyson has spent the last 3 years working and living in Laos to support local clean water projects while Janelle has gained invaluable coffee roasting and brewing experience with one of the US’ most respected artisan coffee roasters, Paul Katzeff.

How Jhai Coffee House is meant to work is quite simple. Janelle, Tyson and their team aim to purchase coffee beans from local farmers at 25% above the Fair Trade price. All coffee is then roasted at Jhai and served in their cafe to the local community as well as tourists who pass through the area and who can also help out by planting coffee plants and get involved in project. Jhai then plans to invest all net profits into clean water pumps and sanitation projects for Lao children. But it doesn’t just stop there.

One of the biggest problems faced by poor communities is the lack of empowerment. Dependency on aid or welfare often completely erodes people’s sense of pride and motivation to change their fortunes. Jhai will require local communities to put forward at least 15% of the costs towards these clean water projects, while Jhai will donate the rest. This so-called co-investment model is based on the philosophy of Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. Through this project, coffee farmers in the Bolaven plateau will finally be able to taste their own product, understand what happens to the beans once they sell them and how to improve their own farming skills.

According to thecoffeevine.com, lonelyplanet.com and thanksgivingcoffee.com