Introducing Karma Cola
Trade is the best form of aid – how a fizzy drink can make a difference to a developing country.
There are 1.9 billion cola soft drinks consumed every day around the world. Yet most people have no idea that the name ingredient comes from a place where people can’t afford to buy food, let alone soft drinks. What’s worse, the people don’t receive a penny from the sale of drinks.
Cola is a food, a medicine and a symbol for friendship at the centre of West African life. It is used for health and wellbeing, ceremonies and rituals and for giving you a boost, like coffee. However big soft drink companies have long since substituted the ‘real thing’ with artificial alternatives like burnt sugar (to create the colour) and phosphoric acid to synthesise its bitterness and tang.
Karma Cola is a soft drink with a serious mission. For three years we’ve been buying cola from a village called Boma in Sierra Leone, where the nut originally comes from. We send part of the proceeds from the sale of every bottle straight back to the villagers to help them rebuild their lives in the wake of civil war. By paying the farmers a really good price for their Cola, our aim is to help them build a sustainable future.
The Karma Cola Foundation, founded on the guiding principle that the people we support know what’s best for them, makes funds available from the sale of Karma Cola. So far we’ve built a bridge to join old and new Boma, we’ve sent 45 young children to school, paid for a primary school teacher in a community school, built a rice-processing centre in order to ensure security of food supply and self sufficiency, supported an educational HIV/Aids theatre group and rehabilitated 25 acres of forest farm.
But today these communities face another crisis – Ebola – and our support is even more important. Funds from the sale of Karma Cola have helped develop an Ebola prevention sensitisation programme, providing medicines and supplies for hygiene and the prevention of infection. There are no cases in the communities so far and incidences of infection have dramatically decreased.
We’re stepping up our trade and increasing our commitment to empower the people we rely on to supply us with cola for Karma Cola. It’s our experience that small amounts of money can go a long way to help these people achieve their dreams. We may not be a major contributor to Sierra Leone’s GDP but we believe trade is aid. Symbolically, trading is the best form of aid we can offer and this is the beginning of a long and mutually beneficial partnership.
There are always challenges to face. After war and poverty, Ebola is another one. But the future lies in economic independence and we believe equitable trade is the best form of long-term aid on the journey to self-sufficiency.