In 2009, actors Hugh Jackman and his wife, Deborra-lee Furness, traveled to Ethiopia as ambassadors for World Vision Australia, one of the world’s largest humanitarian aid organizations. As longtime donors, the Jackmans wanted to visit a World Vision community development project to see how rural communities were being empowered to eradicate poverty.
While in the Yirgacheffe region, Hugh met a 27 year-old coffee farmer named Dukale, working to lift his family out of poverty. Spending time on Dukale’s farm, Hugh learned first-hand about the value of fair trade coffee and clean cookstove technology. By utilizing shade grown farming practices and limiting reliance on fossil fuels, Dukale was able to create a bio-farm with a zero carbon footprint and resounding health implications for his family. Additionally, his wife, Adanesh, who traditionally collected firewood for the family’s energy needs, now had time to focus on other income generating opportunities while their children pursued an education.
As a gesture of their new friendship, Dukale invited Hugh to plant some coffee seedlings on his farm — Hugh accepted and named two trees after his own children, Oscar and Ava. Hugh was so inspired by his experience with Dukale, that he made a promise to advocate on behalf of farmers in developing countries and pledged to only drink fair trade coffee. At the end of his trip, Hugh visited the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange in Addis Ababa to see how coffee is traded on the global market. While watching the coffee prices fluctuate, Hugh found himself rooting for the prices to go up in order to benefit hard working coffee farmers.
Upon his return home to New York City, Hugh was invited to speak at United Nations Climate Week where he made an impassioned plea to world leaders to provide support for farmers like Dukale in developing countries. However, after his UN speech, Hugh still felt that there was more he could do and began talking to people in his neighborhood and at local coffee shops about the impact of fair trade coffee on the environment and the lives of the growers. He came to understand that something as simple as a cup of coffee had the potential to reduce global poverty through the choices consumers made in the United States. After sharing his newfound insights and experiences in Ethiopia with a friend in the restaurant business, Hugh decided the best way for him to have a direct impact on poverty reduction was to start a coffee company in order to trade directly with the growers. In 2011, Hugh launched Laughing Man Coffee & Tea to provide a marketplace for farmers like Dukale to sell their goods to consumers across the U.S.
Years later, the coffee trees Hugh and Dukale planted started to bear fruit. Dukale increased production on his farm, hired more local workers, and re-invested his profits to purchase additional land. Adanesh now runs a successful cafe in their village and their eldest child, Elias, is on track to become the first family member to graduate high school. Hugh’s coffee company, Laughing Man, recently partnered with one of the world’s largest purchasers of fair trade coffee to distribute their products all over the world. As part of his ongoing commitment, Hugh contributes 100% of his profits to the Laughing Man Foundation, which he created to support educational programs, community development and social entrepreneurs around the world.