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Pilot project on gender mainstreaming in coffee value chain
Coffee usually evokes thoughts of fair trade and empowerment, rather than the obstacles female coffee producers face. Trias Central America aims to turn the tide with a seminal study.
The production of coffee is an important source of foreign currency in developing countries. Coffee beans are the cornerstone of the family income for about 25 million family farmers. In all, these small-scale producers account for some 80% of the global coffee production.
More and more women
A remarkable trend is that the production is increasingly in the hands of women. This is because young people and men in Latin America often leave the rural areas. In search of a better life, a significant number of young people and men move to the towns or even further afield: to another country.
The fact that a growing part of our coffee is produced by women does not mean that, as producers, they have the same opportunities and rights as men. The property titles for agricultural land are usually held by their husbands which is why many women have a harder time gaining access to loans, market information and other production resources.
As a result their opportunities for self-development and their income are more limited than those of their male colleagues. This is not a favourable situation for the economic return of the coffee chain.
Equal opportunities and equal rights in the coffee chain represent a step forward in the global fight against rural poverty.
Astrid Vreys, director Trias Central America
‘This inequality has huge significance,’ confirms regional director Astrid Vreys of Trias Central America. ‘If we give women equal opportunities, their self-image and their quality of life will improve. This would be a huge step forward in fighting rural poverty. Women have the right to be compensated for their labour, and the coffee chain itself would also benefit.’
With CLAC, an organisation representing 300,000 farmer families in 24 Latin American countries, Trias has a strong ally in the fight for greater gender equality in the coffee chain. Together we submitted a project proposal to SAFE (Sustainable Agriculture, Food and Environment), a platform of the Inter-American Development Bank which promotes sustainable agriculture.
SAFE promotes cooperation between strategic partners. Hivos is in charge of the coordination and part of the funding comes from private partners, donors and development organisations which want to strengthen the position of family farmers in the agrarian value chain.
‘The methodology that Trias Central America has developed to improve gender equality in farmers’ organisations is clearly much appreciated by SAFE, because we were granted a budget of USD 24,000 for this study.
Trias and CLAC will contribute an additional USD 7,000,’ says Vreys. ‘Together we are going to analyse our own methodology and other gender-related practices in coffee cooperatives. This will enable us to identify critical success factors to achieve equal opportunities and equal rights.’
The results of the studies will be widely disseminated. The project’s final aim is to set up a sustainable learning community about gender equality in the coffee chain. A more egalitarian environment could be just around the corner for many coffee producers in Central America. To be continued...