Coffee for Peace wins UN award

November 18, 2015 | Focus On | Volume 19 Issue 23
Deborah Froese | Mennonite Church Canada

Coffee for Peace won a certificate of achievement from the United Nations Development Programme. It was one of six winners in the UN’s IIX N-Peace Innovation Challenge for “sustainable, scalable, inclusive peacebuilding, that has long-term and transformative impact.” The award was presented to Coffee for Peace founder and CEO Joji Pantoja in New York City on Oct. 23, 2015.

N-Peace is a network of peace advocates in Asia that grew out of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 acknowledging the pivotal role women play in conflict resolution and establishing sustainable peace. Businesses eligible for the award are either run by women or support women’s needs.

Pantoja responded to an N-Peace survey followed by an interview with Kalyani Basu from the IIX N-Peace Business Development Team. Basu encouraged her to join the challenge.

Pantoja noticed that whenever she met with those engaged in conflict, they served coffee. That sparked the idea for Coffee for Peace, a fair-trade business that benefits local farmers and the environment while embodying principles of peacebuilding. Coffee for Peace is a program of Peacebuilders Community Inc., a ministry of Mennonite Church Canada.

“You cannot have peace with an empty stomach,” Pantoja told United Nations Radio host Dianne Penn during an interview on Oct. 22. “Peace is not just absence of war. Peace should be addressing your stomach, your culture, your being, and having peace with your neighbour.”

Growing and selling fair-trade coffee in the Philippines helps promote a culture of peace, Pantoja said. Coffee for Peace brings indigenous farming communities together to grow and process the highest-quality coffee beans and sell them to a worldwide market for a sustainable income. At the same time, the industry restores areas decimated through heavy logging by planting trees that not only provide shade for the growing coffee plants, but control soil erosion on slopes.

Being recognized by the UN was encouraging, Pantoja said, because “it shows you cannot have development without peace.”

To learn more about the ministry of Coffee for Peace, watch “Matt Epp and Coffee for Peace, Philippines,” at

See also “Matt Epp supports Coffee for Peace effort with visit, concert” 

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