BOGOTÁ, Colombia – The archetypal representation of a Colombian coffee farmer as a producer wearing poncho and hat has been lagging behind, thanks also to the growing room and prominence that women coffee growers have gained.
Female participation in the coffee value chain now encompasses all links, from collectors to farm owners, businesswomen, baristas, cuppers, and community and union leaders, without necessarily ceasing to be wives and mothers, since they are at the family’s hearth.
Almost 30% of Colombian coffee farming is in the hands of women, many of whom are increasingly betting on specialty coffee production. And new generations of women are interested in activities such as cupping or barismo to offer consumers the best cup of coffee.
There are more and more associations of women producers and union leaders at central, departmental, and municipal levels … and there is still a way to go.
That’s why on the International Coffee Day, the company Nespresso, which is synonymous with sophistication and highest-quality coffee, with the support of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) as strategic partner, wants to pay tribute to Colombian coffee-growing women, making visible their important work throughout the value chain.
Colombian coffee growing: Leaving patriarchal models behind
In 1972, the first woman was elected as a member of the National Coffee Growers Committee, the union governing body that, together with Colombian Government representatives, discusses and sets the sector’s policies.
In recent decades, female participation in the coffee institutions has substantially speeded up, to such an extent that, out of the seven executive positions at the FNC HQ, three are held by women.
On the other hand, since 1931, when the coffee ID card was launched, women can hold this union ID document that allows them to elect and be elected and, since 2006, to access financial services.
Likewise, the FNC has been a pioneer, along with the Colombian Government through the Vice Presidency of the Republic, in promoting a policy of gender equity in rural Colombia.
This ambitious gender equity strategy developed by the FNC for several years has yielded important results, as seen in the last union elections in 2018: the share of women elected to municipal committees grew from 16% to 24%, and almost doubled, from 8% to 15%, at departmental level.
And many other actions, such as the National Meeting of Coffee-Growing Women and empowerment, leadership and gender equity workshops have been done to promote presence and participation of women in the union affairs.
“Gender equity progress in the coffee sector has been substantial. They have gained key roles and spaces in all links of the chain. There is still much to do, but the institutional commitment to do so is cross-cutting and encompasses all areas at all levels,” says Claudia Rodríguez, Coordinator of the FNC Gender Equity Program.
“Although we have been working for some time, now we truly have been made more visible, so much so that there was already a Coffee Growers Congress chaired by women: the president and the two vice presidents were women. That’s already a big advance,” says Flor Matilde Sacristán, the Cundinamarca delegate that served as second vice president at the 86th Coffee Growers Congress (2018).
Nespresso strengthens gender equity
Through its AAA Sustainable Quality Program that it has developed in Colombia for over 15 years, Nespresso recognizes that gender equity is a crucial element for quality, sustainability, and productivity of the coffee value chain, and to be incorporated into training and empowerment of coffee-growing communities.
That’s why it has developed a gender strategy so that this program benefits women and men equally, foreseeing the design and implementation of specific interventions, forums and training that empower women, who also account for 30% of the over 30,000 coffee growers that the Program accompanies in Colombia. The ultimate goal is to reduce gender gaps.
To achieve these goals, Nespresso commissioned the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT, www.kit.nl, an independent center for education, intercultural cooperation and hospitality dedicated to sustainable development), to design and implement a gender skill development program for the over 120 agronomists dedicated to the coffee growers under the AAA Sustainable Quality Program in Colombia.
Launched in February 2019, the project “Catalysts for Gender Transformative Change” is based on the gender analysis “Working Together for Gender Equality” that Nespresso conducted in 2018.
This analysis laid the foundations for participatory training of agronomists, in which their work with coffee farmers becomes part of the learning process. In this training cycle, KIT specialists use tools that strengthen agronomists’ skills to identify, in their daily work, situations that arise from gender inequality and to solve them.
“Nespresso recognizes that the role of women in the coffee value chain, whether they are collectors, farm owners, wives or daughters of coffee growers, is essential to achieve sustainable coffee farming with both genders enjoying the same benefits. Our partner, the FNC, has done important work in favor of gender equity that we want to support, from our AAA Sustainable Quality program, to achieve this paradigm shift that will benefit the whole union,” says Santiago Arango, coordinator of the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality Program for Colombia and Peru.
“We rely on a community of over 120 dedicated agronomists, of which over 40% are women, to achieve this goal,” he adds.
Given the current situation of women in the world of coffee, and particularly on the International Coffee Day, Nespresso highlights the role of women in the union, recognizing their tireless work, dedication, and commitment.
It is time to show that not behind, but beside a great man, there is a great woman, and above all to know that much of the best coffee in the world is also produced by women.