A business opened in Grand Island this week that will have a profound impact on family farmers half a world away.

Zabuni Specialty Coffee Auction opened its doors in Grand Island to its first auction. For sale: coffee beans grown in Kenya, which is 8,500 miles away from Grand Island.

The business, led by owner and CEO Laban Njuguna of Grand Island, will warehouse the coffee beans in Grand Island and market it to 5,200 independent buyers throughout the U.S.

This will help Kenyan farmers in a number of ways. First it will eliminate middle men who often suck up all of the profits. Second, it will get them a better price for their crops.

The potential market for Kenyan — and African — coffee is huge. Coffee is big business in the U.S. and throughout the world.

If Kenyan coffee can be established as a popular brand, demand will skyrocket. And it should grow in popularity, as it is a good, high-quality coffee.

That will not only help Kenyan farmers, it will put Grand Island on the map as the warehouse source of Kenyan coffee.

Coffee connoisseurs know that coffee from specific parts of the world gather a following or provide a variety for coffee drinkers. For example, there is coffee from Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Brazil and elsewhere that has attracted followings. Kenyan coffee can take its place with those other coffees as its quality and taste is just as good.

All it needs is some good marketing and a fair business model — and Zabuni Specialty Coffee Auction will provide both of those.

Njuguna’s vision for his company has become a reality thanks to strong support from the Grand Island Area Economic Development Corp. EDC President Dave Taylor and others worked tirelessly on the project, including leading a trade mission to Kenya and welcoming Kenyan visitors to Grand Island.

In addition, Grand Island developer Ray O’Connor redeveloped a property for Zabuni in downtown Grand Island and hosted delegations from Kenya.

City officials also played a part as the Grand Island City Council approved a $100,000 forgivable loan over four years through the LB840 economic development program. Ten new jobs were created with help from the funding and one can see more coming if the demand for the coffee takes off like expected.

Zabuni Specialty Coffee Auction’s opening, years from now, may be seen as an important turning point in economic development in both Kenya and Grand Island.

It should bring more money to Kenyan farmers, improving their quality of life. It also has the potential to bring jobs to Grand Island and will help diversify the local economy.

As Zabuni becomes a success, it will benefit Kenya and — 8,500 miles away — Grand Island.

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