No 30

Gender Equity, a Key Factor for Sustainability of the Coffee Sector

November, 2015


Gender Equity, a Key Factor for Sustainability of the Coffee Sector

Experts from different countries agree that, because of generation and reinvestment of resources by women at home and on the farm, they are fundamental actors for sustainability of the coffee sector.

The 8th edition of the International Specialty Coffee Expo, ExpoEspeciales Café de Colombia 2015, which took place from October 15 to 18 in Bogotá, was the scene for the IV Convention of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA), an important forum that helps highlight and strengthen the role of women in the global coffee industry, from seed to cup.

In the framework of this IV Convention, female experts from different countries agreed that gender equity is a key factor for the very sustainability of the coffee sector.

“Gender equity is the basis for a sustainable coffee future (...), it is a strategic level for everything we want to achieve in that sense: coffee quality, reliable supply, healthy coffee families and communities, and a vibrant industry for future generations,” said Kimberly Easson, director of Strategic Partnerships at the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI).

Easson took part in one of the discussion panels along with Ana María Lleras, Coordinator of the Coffee-Growing Women Program of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC); Penelope Hurndell, senior executive of the International Trade Centre (ITC), and Catherine Murphy, country director of the NGO Café Africa Tanzania, which has the support of the ITC.

Easson shared the results of a study on gender equity in the coffee sector, which included a review of existing literature and workshops, in Cauca, Colombia; Uganda, Nicaragua and Indonesia. The study confirmed that most of work devolves on women, who reinvest 90% of money they receive in household needs, in contrast to 40% in the case of men.

The CQI made a number of recommendations, such as increasing women’s participation in trainings and making the industry more sensitive to gender issues; achieving greater balance in leadership positions and supporting joint decision-making at household and farm level, because it is demonstrated that they are responsible for 70% of the coffee production work, including decisions about coffee growing.

Lleras recalled that since its creation 9 years ago, the Coffee-Growing Women Program has been working on changing paradigms and myths traditionally associated with men in search of sustainability of coffee growing.

“These myths are barriers, and sustainability challenges us to knock them down to enable coherent actions among different groups: producers, cooperatives, associative groups, committees, customers, consumers, etc.,” Lleras said.

“At the FNC, we work so that the gender equity approach speaks not only about what we want, equal opportunities, but translates into integrated actions that contribute to sustainable development of an entire country,” she added.

“It is necessary to build a coffee growing model around the world that actually translates into development for coffee-producing regions. We attracted attention on the need for sustainable human development. Women are strategic partners, they are certainly finding an income in the coffee sector, but they want more: support, programs, education, empowerment, all the possibilities that the industry may offer them,” Lleras noted.


Progresses in Colombia
Colombian coffee growers have made significant progresses in the field of gender equity, an achievement that is recognized by international organizations, although there are still many challenges ahead.

In Colombia, more than 300,000 women are involved in coffee production processes, accounting for 29% of the FNC registrants. A total of 106,792 women own a farm (28% of total producers). And women produce 25% of the country’s coffee.

Colombia currently has 72 women associations with over 6,000 women in 16 departments. Through the Coffee-Growing Women Program, the FNC has promoted women’s leadership through their full participation in the community public life and guild policies.

As a first step for this, it has promoted and increased participation of female voters in the election of the FNC representatives. It has also developed strategies to promote coffee-growing women’s associations and started continued support to their formalization.

This has helped women gain representation spaces. Of the 4,440 municipal representatives, 696 (14%) are women, while the percentage in departmental committees is 8%, a participation still low given their high involvement in decision-making at home and the farm, and their leading role in the value chain, but the FNC works on breaking down the barriers that prevent higher participation.

Relying on databases to guide actions is a Coffee-Growing Women Program’s strength.

To promote gender equity, this Program works with a sustainability approach in the economic, social, environmental and institutional dimensions, in an integrated and cross-cutting way with all other areas of the FNC.

Progresses of the Colombian coffee sector in gender equity contributed to the selection of Colombia as the venue of the IV IWCA Convention. “Colombia has done a tremendous work in promoting gender equity. What is being achieved here, with many initiatives, is an example for the world,” Mery Santos, president of IWCA, said.

Within the framework of the IV Convention, representatives of other international organizations such as the International Coffee Organization (ICO), UN Women and the ITC, recognized the Colombian coffee growers’ work on gender equity and access to markets.


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