In 1450, Sufi monks in Yemen were the first to cultivate coffee plants and brew the drink we know today as coffee.
Coffee traveled from Yemen's highlands by camel.
Yemen monopolized world coffee trade for 200 years, shipping tons of sterile beans from the port of Al Mokha.
Drinking coffee gained popularity worldwide, with coffee shops opening in Europe beginning in 1650.
Coffee is grown on terraces carved into Yemen's rugged terrain.
Ripened coffee cherries are hand-picked on small family farms.
Cherries are dried on rooftops, revealing the coffee seeds within.
The Port City of Al Mokha, 1680
In my last post, I talked about numbers, about progress and about impact we could measure at Al Mokha. Economists tend to get wrapped up in numbers. This group of people is richer, you might say, and an economist wants to know, okay, but how do measure “rich”? Is it how much money or how many assets they have; is it how much they earn? How do you get a representative sample to answer your questions? How do you know that someone’s observable (or unobservable) characteristics aren’t influencing the way they perceive the question?
Economists have largely settled these questions. With a little effort, you could get to a point where you could measure “rich” satisfactorily, where you could answer the question of who is richest.
But some questions are simply unanswerable within the paradigm of statistical causality. Some of those questions are ones that Al Mokha wants to answer.
For instance, is coffee the best answer to Yemen’s woes?Read More
Author (on right) in Nyarugusu, Tanzania, during a project for the International Rescue Committee
As a development economist with interests that are a little outside the norm, I spend a lot of my day thinking about how to measure unmeasurable things. How prevalent is a certain belief? And how does it affect people’s behavior? Can one violent event, or experience, be objectively seen as worse or more violent than another? And if so, what determines that violence—scope, tenor, frequency? How do we fix it?
So, when Anda told me he wanted to start thinking more about impact and measurement at Al Mokha, I jumped up and down with glee. From the moment he and I first talked development and coffee in Cambridge almost a year ago, I’d been questioning, "cool, but how do you measure that?"Read More