02 September 2019 | pacts insight | Views:

3 women-led groups who are changing the coffee industry

What’s the best way to get something done right? By doing it yourself.

There are deeply inherent problems surrounding gender inequity in the coffee industry, and we are passionate about supporting those who fight against that. And the best people to do that are women in farming themselves - so we’re finding more ways to work with them.

Gender inequity in the world of coffee

Whether it’s fuelled by or is fuelling the problem, coffee farming - or farming generally - has an image problem. Because even though your default mental image of a farmer is probably a middle-aged man (possibly in a hat), that’s not really the case.

- 70% of all coffee fieldwork is done by women, and

- 43% of the agricultural labour force is made up of women

Which begs the question, why have we got the wrong idea about women in coffee farming? It could be because of the sort of work they’re doing:

- Women own just 15% of farmland, farming equipment and traded crops

- Women receive just 5% of relevant training available

- Women run just 25-35% of coffee farms

- Women work a 15-hour day, compared to a man’s 8, due to work and home responsibilities

With the future of coffee farming in jeopardy, due to dwindling numbers of farmers and the average age creeping higher and higher, this is a waste of resources. And studies suggest giving women farmers more opportunities, would increase production by 20-30%. It’s a no-brainer.

Meet the women who are doing it for themselves

Asomuprisma Women’s Association

Asomuprisma

We had to mention Asomuprisma first. Chances are, you’ve read about them before. Based in Nevia, Colombia they started as a social group for women working on coffee farms. But this led to more - and in 2016 they were recognised as a non-profit organisation, with the aim of lifting the profile of women in coffee.

This started with putting themselves out there - at training sessions and trade fairs - and by producing their own coffee, and selling it in a self-run café. And selling it to us, too!

We loved what they were doing, and have tried to help support the cause - by providing training, workshops, equipment and social support as they continue to thrive. And by buying their crops, of course.

Mujeres Rurales de San Alberto

A group of 28 women, we met this Colombian cooperative before Asomuprisma. They started working together in 2015, knowing that there’s power in numbers, and they excited about what they were doing when we met. But there were a few complicating factors…

The group is situated a 6-hour drive and 2-hour hike from the nearest town. Yup, you read that right. That makes it hard for A) them to find people to sell coffee to, B) us to visit their farms!

It also means they’re 100% self-sufficient - growing all their own food, from plantain and pumpkin, pineapple and avocados. It also means they don’t have access to chemical fertilisers - making their coffee technically (if not yet officially) organic!

Huehutenango Cooperative

This group bucks the trend - they’re based in Guatemala, rather than Colombia! Covering a total of 36 hectares, these women group their small crops together for one lot - most of them having started farming to earn their own income, and gain independence.

What we love about them is the commitment to quality - good for us, and canny for them, as they know that putting in the effort to grow speciality grade crops means a higher income for them all.

A severe frost during the 2018 harvest meant that, when milled, a lot of beans were revealed to have been damaged - frostbitten, to produce a dark brown colour. Despite meaning there were fewer bags of coffee to sell, they made sure to remove all damaged beans to maintain quality. The reward? We bought their crops and plan to continue doing so.


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