With the help of organic and fair trade premiums, much has
been accomplished in the rural communities of coffee-producing
countries, from improvement in the local economies, better
diets, improved sanitation and new wet-processing mills for
green coffee beans. However, the marginalization of women
in these rural communities continues. In the urban areas of
Peru, for example, the abuse rate is estimated at 40% and in the rural
communities the rate is far greater.
With little money to count on, a coffee
family generally prefers to invest available resources in
educating the sons. The daughters stay home and devote themselves
to chores around the house and watching over the farm. They
usually marry between 12 and 16 years of age and until now,
women have only been allowed to participate in the domestic
work of the home. If they were allowed to join work groups,
it was only in a passive role.
In 2003, the first conference of Women Coffee
Producers was held in Northern Peru. The concept of separating
these women producers' coffee from the rest of the fair trade
co-op's production was a new idea, developed by the fair trade
co-op, their organic coffee trading partners, and the women
themselves, searching for ideas that would improve their living
conditions. The women's conferences focus on building self-esteem,
leadership, and sharing experiences. The women's response
to these organizational activities has been amazing, as has
the support offered by community leaders.
The coffee buyer for PROASSA (an organic
trading company in Peru), who travels to the producing regions
and works with the growers on a regular basis, is a woman
named Isabel Latorre and the first agronomist sent by PROASSA
to educate the farmers in organic agriculture was also a woman,
Maria Chubas. They are both setting examples for these communities
and their leadership has helped to pave the way for other
talented women within the co-op.
are currently well over 1000 women coffee farmers involved with
the Cafe Femenino Coffee Project in Peru. The women farmers participate
in all farm activities: preparing the terrain, nurseries,
and the compost to fertilize the soil; preparing bio-fertilizers;
as well as harvesting, de-pulping, fermenting, and drying
the coffee. It is very rare for women to participate in selling
coffee or in deciding how the money from coffee sales will
be used - all of which they do with Cafe Femenino.
Once the coffee leaves the co-op, all sales
contracts for Cafe Femenino must be signed and committed to
by a woman, and a woman must participate in the sales and
marketing of this coffee. An extra two cents per pound above
the fair trade price for green coffee is paid by the US importer
of Cafe Femenino, and these funds provide income that goes
directly to the women producers - the use of this money is
for them alone to decide.
Grounds for Change
donates an additional 10 cents for each pound of Cafe Femenino
sold directly back to this women's coffee growing project to fund annual grants requested by the members. This year, thanks to the continuing support of our customers, we funded the continued financing of early childhood education centers in Northern Peru (located in many of the communities that produce our Cafe Femenino Peru coffee).
We hope you take this concept to heart,
share the story and the coffee, and be a part of something
that can change the lives and futures of many women.