Empowering Women in Coffee
June 05, 2019
In part two of our weeklong series, we highlight our work promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment throughout the coffee value chain.
Editor’s Note: On June 7 and 8, TechnoServe’s Global Coffee Director, Paul Stewart, will give two presentations at the Specialty Coffee Association’s annual World of Coffee event. These presentations highlight TechnoServe’s market-based, farmer-centered approach in the coffee sector, focusing on improving coffee farmer incomes despite low market prices and on a little-known specialty coffee that promotes environmental sustainability. This week on our blog, we take a closer look at the key elements of success in this coffee work. Today: women’s empowerment.
Women play an essential role in the global coffee value chain – in some countries, they account for up to 70 percent of the labor in coffee production, from the farm level, to the cooperative level, to the processing level. However, women face significant barriers to their equal participation, such as less access to land, capital, and technical information. TechnoServe works to connect women in coffee with the information and resources they need to increase their coffee yields and improve their incomes. In doing so, these women are able to take ownership of their economic situation and invest in their family’s health and education, improving outcomes for entire communities. Below are four stories of the impact of our work with women coffee farmers:
Kebebushe Fissa is an agronomist in Hunkute, Ethiopia, who spends her time visiting farmers and offering training on topics such as coffee picking, soil management, and composting. In Ethiopia, women do 75 percent of the work in the coffee value chain, but earn only 43 percent of the total income. Through the AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program, TechnoServe and Nespresso partner to empower women to take on leadership roles within the coffee community. “I was raised in a coffee-producing region, but I had no farm management skills,” says Kebebushe. “Now, between what I have learned, and the money I earn as a field agronomist, my own farm has become better and larger.”
In Kenya, women like Tarciana Ciokinyua joined coffee cooperatives and took on leadership roles in their communities. Using the skills and knowledge they gained through the Coffee Initiative, these women inspired and empowered future generations of women. “I used to dig all around my coffee trees, and now I know that it disturbs the roots,” Tarciana says. “I now practice planting shade trees, making terraces, using the right amount of fertilizer, and have reduced the number of coffee stems to three. All this I learned from the training.” The Coffee Initiative was a partnership between TechnoServe and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that helped boost the incomes of nearly 270,000 farmers across East Africa.
In Honduras, there were very few professional coffee cuppers (tasters who judge a coffee’s quality and help roasters make purchasing decisions), which made it difficult to control coffee quality throughout the value chain. In addition, of the few professional tasters in the country, 95 percent were male. Recognizing this gap in the coffee sector, TechnoServe worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop a new coffee cupping school called ESCOBCAFE, in which 80 percent of the students were female. Many of its graduates went on to find employment as professional cuppers, enabling them to support their families and the country’s coffee industry while charting new paths for their female counterparts.
At first, Yewbgar Gashaw joined the Wutete cooperative in western Ethiopia just to earn more income from her coffee farm. However, she was soon recognized for her leadership abilities and was selected as the cooperative’s vice chairperson. In Ethiopia, women leaders help promote gender inclusion and social responsibility within the coffee value chain. “I have encouraged more women to join [the cooperative]. I recruited one of the other female leaders. Before she joined, there were 29 women out of 210 members. Currently there are 70 women out of 240 members,” says Yewbgar.
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