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Palm nut beer is WorldChanging
Ethan Zuckerman, 18 Nov 04

Brewing beer runs in Henrique Kabia's family. According to stories of the Chokwe people of southern Congo, northern Zambia and Angola - where Kabia hails from - his great-great grandmother saved his family's life by brewing beer. A regional shortage of game meant that his great-great-grandfather went into the bush to hunt, and came back short-handed. His wife consoled him with home-brewed beer, and traded the excess beer to neighbors for farm produce. After twenty years of unsuccesful hunting, he returned to the village from a three-month trip with porcupine - the preferred meat of the Chokwe people. His long-suffering wife responded by brewing a celebratory beer using palm nuts, which was so well-received that the ensuing celebration lasted three months. So many people toasted each other, saying "Mongozo!" - to your health - that the palm nut beer became known by that appelation.

Kabia was the first man in his family to brew beer, traditionally a women's art - his mother taught him when he went away to university, making him a very popular guy at school. And when he emigrated from Angola to the Netherlands, he brought his beer recipies with him. As a naturalized Dutch citizen, he started touring his Chokwe homebrews to local beer festivals, to a warm reception.

This success under his belt, Kabia approached a series of Belgian breweries, ultimately settling on Brouwerji Huyghe, Ghent's oldest brewer. Huyghe now produces three of Kabia's beers, marketed under the Mongozo brand name: a palmnut flavored beer from the Chokwe recipe, a Kenyan-influenced banana-flavored beer, and a gluten-free Incan-style beer using Bolivian quinoa.

Mongozo's mission is broader than just bringing global flavors to beer enthusiasts. The company has a pervasive commitment to fair trade, importing palm nuts and drinking calabashes from Angola, bananas from throughout east Africa, and quinoa from Anapqui, an association of growers in Bolivia. Mongozo beers carry a certification from the Max Havelaar Foundation, a European organization that promotes fair trade agriculture around the world.

I'm a huge fan of projects that contribute to bi-directional globalization - efforts that ensure that globalization doesn't just mean McDonalds in Luanda, but also Angolan beer in middle America. The socially responsible focus of Mongozo - combined with the excellent reviews the beer has received from American and European tasters - means that I'll be pushing my local pub to stock it. And I've started to talk to Ghanaian friends about possible American markets for pito, a millet beer brewed by the Dagara people of northwest Ghana.

Tragically, Henrique Kabia died in a car accident in Switzerland in July 2003. His business partner, Jan Fleurkes, has decided that the best way to honor his friend was to continue the business and its social mission.

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Great stuff.

Hoever, I think the Max Havelar Foundation was orginally Dutch.

In 1988 the first pack Max Havelaar-coffee was sold in the Netherlands. The idea for such a fair trade coffee came after a request form Mexican Coffeefarmers for better coffeeprices instead of development aid. Amodel for trademark coffee was created that is now known as the Max Havelaar-model. It stands for fair trade, giving people a fair chance and a better future. Since then 5 more products have entered the Dutch market: bananas, tea, chocolate, honey and orange juice. In al those years many producers farmers and workers achieved a better life standard for themselves and their families.

The Dutch initiative is now acted out in 16 countries world-wide. The international co-ordinating organisation for all of them is FLO International, located in Bonn Germany.


Where does the name Max Havelaar come from?

More than 130 years ago the author of the book "Max Havelaar or the coffee auctions of the Dutch Trading-Society", Eduard Douwes Dekker, was assistant resident in one of the districts of the former Dutch East Indies, the present Indonesia. Douwes Dekker could not reconcile with the politics of the colonial government who forced the countrymen on a massive scale to work for the Dutch coffee plantations. That pressure was so high that the farmers had to neglect the cultivation of food crops. Famine was the result.

No one better than Max Havelaar himself can express our feelings when inviting everybody, in any country, to act with creativity and firm decision towards the implementation of initiatives similar to Max Havelaar, adapted for the specific conditions and characteristics of local conditions and market structures.

"And once more I do not ask this for myself, but for the cause that I represent, the cause of justice and humanity, which is also a cause of well-understood politics".

(Max Havelaar, 1859, in his famous letter to the King of Holland, pledging for His intervention to secure a human treatment of the indigenous people of the so called ‘Dutch Indies’, the latter Indonesia. In that time, his plea stayed without positive result.)

Posted by: Garry Peterson on 19 Nov 04



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