A report by the Chicago-based Air Quality Life Index published in 2019 revealed that life-expectancy has been reduced by a couple of years due to atmospheric pollution. It also revealed that for a few days during the monitoring period, Chiang Mai, in Thailand was the most polluted city in the world, far exceeding international standards set for maximum levels of pollution.
One of the main factors contributing to these elevated levels is the practice of deburring – the combustion of agricultural residues to increase fertility and prepare the soil for the next season – used primarily in the cultivation of corn. In addition, the use of spray pesticides and also contributes to pollution especially during the rainy seasons when these chemicals flow into local waterways.
Those who frequent Mary Queen of Peace parish in ChaeHom suffer the consequences of these practices.
“When the faithful approach the altar to receive the Eucharist”, explains Father Bruno Rossi, “we have noticed that their hands are covered with red dust, a residue of pesticides. That was the turning point for us: we realized that were placing the Body of Christ into wounded hands, a real and true life-giving action that revealed signs of death”.
The Italian missionaries, therefore, suggested that the coffee plantations be extended from the mountainous areas of the territory to the hill country downstream. Father Bruno recounts that the idea of initiating organic farming arose when some of the beans grown by the families of students residing in the parish were tasted. The product was high quality, but the roasting procedures used in the area did not create the same aroma the missionaries were used to in their native country. Thus, with the arrival of the first roasting machine in 2012, and then making other improvements, they began both the organic production of coffee and a marketing process. These enhanced both the quality of the product and the quality of life for those living in the area. The sale of the coffee at competitive prices permitted the restoration of dignity to the farmers living in the villages of ChaeHom, as well as the creation of scholarships for students.
The production of “Bruno's Coffee” began more than ten years ago, even before the publication of Laudatosi’. “We tried to take into consideration both work and rest”, Father Rossi explains, “as well as the community’s desire to remain healthy within a safe environment. We also tried to take care of our common home, respecting nature and harmonizing our work with it. This is a need that comes from deep within, an attentiveness that brings with it values that are fully shared even in the Asian culture.
Jokingly, Father Bruno even compares his parishioners to coffee beans – each one is different from the others, each has his or her own unique and unrepeatable story. It is the roasting that makes the difference. That is, the capacity of bringing out the best in everyone, just like good teachers do with their students. “We produce, package and ship about 800 kg of roasted coffee per month throughout Thailand. The largest orders come generally from hotels and from curious tourists who wants to taste Italian-roasted coffee”, the pastor relates. “The pandemic has created a lot of difficulties connected to the lack of tourists. But this has not halted the project.”