Joji Pantoja receives award for sparking change and progress

Deborah Froese
April 13, 2017
Mennonite Church Canada
Joji Pantoja (2nd from right) recieves award.
Joji and female coffee farmers.
Award certificate.
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Joji Pantoja’s socially responsible business acumen in her role as founder and CEO of Coffee for Peace is getting noticed at the highest levels. On March 30, she was recognized by Go Negosyo, the advocacy arm of the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship, as one of 26 Inspiring Filipina Entrepreneurs 2017. The award was presented by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at Malacañang Palace.

Now in its 12th year, the Inspiring Filipina Entrepreneurs award is designed to acknowledge women in micro or small businesses who spark change and progress through innovation and social responsibility. To qualify, they must also be well-respected by their peers.

A Mennonite Church Canada worker, Pantoja established Coffee for Peace in response to her conviction that peace is more than an absence of war; it requires justice, and part of that means access to fair wages. Coffee for Peace supports local coffee growers in Mindanao by teaching sustainable agriculture and best business practices that permit them to earn a living wage. Eighty per percent of those farmers are women.

Pantoja says the farmers may not have formal schooling, but they are able to share knowledge with other farmers. Doing so gives confidence and hope to the entire community.

Coffee for Peace grew out of the work of Peacebuilders Community, Inc., a ministry supported by Mennonite Church Canada. Investors in the Coffee for Peace business have agreed that 25% of their net profit will be donated to Peacebuilders Community, Inc. The funds are used to support Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) teams who are trained to be agents of peace and reconciliation in each of their respective communities. The goal is to establish a PAR Team in each of Philippines’ 81 provinces; PAR Teams have already been established in 33 provinces.

Pantoja received the Inspiring Filipina Entrepreneurs award in the Inclusive Business category for “engendering peace through the innovative use of coffee as source of livelihood, community-building and conflict reduction,” and “improving the plight of farmers and establishing peacebuilding mechanisms in conflicted areas of Mindanao” through Coffee for Peace.

“This award just affirms what we are doing,” Pantoja writes in an email exchange. “It is Inclusive Business. It is not just profit for them [the farmers] but also the developmental aspect of their humanity. Growth in their relational harmony with our Creator; relational harmony with their being; relational harmony with others and relational harmony with God's creation.”

This is not the first time Pantoja’s efforts have been recognized. In 2015, she was awarded a Certificate of Achievement from The United Nations Development Programme for establishing Coffee for Peace.

Photo Credits: 
Photos provided.