Karma Drinks Save the Rainforest with One Tribe

Hazel Needham

Hazel Needham

Hero Image - Karma save the rainforest - Karma Drinks website incorporating all of their achievements so far, including rehabilitating rainforest farms, funding teachers an

One Tribe’s partner Karma Drinks is a soft drinks company saving the rainforest by reassigning value to the planet’s natural resources. Every time you buy one of their soft drinks, trees are protected and funding is provided to revive the livelihoods of West African farmers. It’s first product was Karma Cola, which is one of the few colas in the current world being made from real, high quality kola nuts.

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What’s a kola nut?

You probably haven’t even heard of kola nuts, but believe me, they used to be all the rage. Originally from the rainforests in West Africa, the kola nut has stunned European explorers for their health benefits and taste for centuries. In 1620, English explorer Richard Jobson claimed that the nuts were good enough to be gifted to royalty.


By the late 19th  Century, kola nuts were being shipped by the tonne to Europe and the United States. Many made their way into tonic medicines. It’s unsurprising then, that the Coca-Cola soft drink we recognize today was not founded by a guy working in food, but rather a pharmacist working with kola nuts. In May 1886 Dr. John S. Pemberton concocted Coca-Cola in Atlanta.

All Coca, no Kola

So, for a substantial time, West African kola nuts have been celebrated and valued highly. But when big-name cola companies discovered the cheapness of using artificial sweeteners and flavors to create their soft drinks, they abandoned the kola nut altogether. And when they abandoned the kola nut, these companies also abandoned the rainforest farms and communities who had discovered the kola nut – and flavor – in the first place.


Karma Drinks learned that more than a million colas are consumed around the world every minute, yet not a penny is seen by the people who originally discovered the stuff. 


They decided it was time to save the rainforest by reinvesting in its people.

Image of kola nuts being held in the hands of a rainforest farmer

Fairtrade kola nut

In 2010, Karma Drinks decided to revisit the original ideas behind cola. They used Fairtrade, organic, natural ingredients to make a soft drink that tasted really, really good. Even the sugar was as natural and high quality as possible. The first few bottles were made using a bag of kola nuts sent from a rainforest farm in Sierra Leone. At the time, there was no such thing as a Fairtrade kola nut.

Albert Tucker is a Chairman of the Karma Foundation. He originally worked in Fairtrade coffee. He stated that: “One of our main questions was, “How come one of the most valuable commodities in the world is produced by people who are overwhelmingly poor?” This is what Fairtrade sought to change, and it was extended to other products like cocoa.”

The Karma Foundation works with people in Sierra Leone who want the same thing as you and I. They want to send their kids to school and they want to be self-sufficient. Sometimes this can be as simple as having food stored safely away for the rainy season that will inevitably come. 

The Karma Foundation gives cola farmers and their families the independence they need by providing them with a fair income as well as supporting projects to develop infrastructure and education.

Karma Drinks website showing the process of making the soft drinks for the company. This includes sourcing the fairtrade and organic ingredients from African and Asia and t

“There’s always a price, but it’s about who pays that price.”

 Of course, the main reason for abandoning the kola nut in the first place was to cut costs. 

Albert Tucker states: “We set up the Karma Foundation to make sure that if we grow, they grow too. This isn’t aid, it’s a straightforward trade. We believe the best form of support and economic independence is an equitable commercial relationship and mutual respect.

Karma Drinks’ pragmatic understanding of protecting the global economy and its people doesn’t stop there. Now, proud partners of ours, Karma Drinks are also protecting the rainforest – literally – by protecting trees with every purchase

Today’s cheap prices of Coca-Cola do not reflect the finances required to support and repair the damage done to the communities or the degradation of the environment caused by cost-cutting production methods.

 As Albert says, “There’s always a price, but it’s about who pays that price.”

Consumers ultimately hold the power to influence growth in fairtrade, making intentional choices in your everyday life can be the difference between destruction and saving the rainforest if we think globally, and with companies like Karma making huge efforts to make a big change, it’s up to us to champion better choices. 

The true cost of unsustainable and non-environmentally friendly farming is much higher than the 50p difference you see on the shelf, and what tastes sweeter than a drink with a cause? 

Image taken from the Karma Drinks website. Sierra-Leone farmers raising their fists in the air of celebration, sporting Karma Drinks merchandise.

Consumers ultimately hold the power to influence

Every time you purchase a Karma Drink you are raising funds for the farmers in Sierra Leone, driving economical and social independence. You are also protecting trees (check out how many!) courtesy of One Tribe’s involvement. Saving the rainforest AND livelihoods? Far more important than saving a few pennies.

To think that a soft drink company can have such a healthy impact on the environment, the rainforest farmers, the global economy, and your body (so long, artificial sweeteners)! Kola nuts were just the beginning. Check out how you can support Karma and try some of their super tasty drinks by visiting their website.

Bottoms up!

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