Written by Andrea Otte, CCR Head of Coffee
Coffee currently provides the main source of income for an estimated 25 million households around the world. According to a report by the International Coffee Organisation in 2018, it is estimated that women perform up to 70% of the labour involved with coffee production worldwide, however, women account for only 20-30% of all coffee farms operators today. In coffee as in many industries, there is a measurable gap in income, opportunities, security and education for female farmers and workers. Considering the enormous scale of the coffee industry, improving opportunities for and protecting the rights of women and girls can strengthen not just our direct supply chain but the livelihoods of many millions of people.
Pictured: Women bringing coffee to be processed in San Marcos, Honduras
Caravan has featured coffees grown by women throughout our history, using such opportunities to tell the stories of individual producers and to speak more generally about the issues they face. However, in recent years, realising that many of these adversities are not improving, Caravan has reviewed our previous, ad-hoc commitments and decided they were not adequate to meet the level of action needed. Therefore, starting in January 2021, we began a new project we are calling our Female Producer Programme.
In its first year, our commitment was that one-third of all coffee we roasted came from female-run farms. This simple, initial target represented a conscious strategy to ensure that we are fairly representing women farmers among our offer. However, as this commitment was only slightly above the top estimate of women-run farms in the world (ICO 2018), we decided that a change-making goal is one that represents an aspirational gender distribution of equal male and female operated farms. Therefore, for 2022 and beyond, we have increased our commitment to one half of all coffee that passes through our doors.
Pictured: Paula Perez (left) speaks to members of Jovemcafe, a women’s cooperative in Guatemala, in February, 2022
On top of our purchase volume commitment, in 2021 we also included a 10p per kilo premium for each coffee that we purchased from women-run farms. We felt this was a good way to compensate farmers for the additional social and economic disadvantages faced in their day to day lives. While this was mostly a success, we found it difficult to ensure that the monies were passed back to the women themselves, particularly on coffee purchases bought after the coffee had left the country of origin (sometimes referred to as ‘spot’ purchases). We also heard from some producers that they felt uncomfortable receiving a premium ‘simply for being female’ – they wanted their coffee to stand on its own, no matter who grew it.
We listened to this feedback, reviewed the successes and challenges of last year, and have decided in 2022 to use this 10p/kg in a slightly different fashion. This year, we will be placing our 10p per kilo commitment into a newly created fund, setting it aside throughout the year for each kilo of coffee we roast that was grown by women. At the end of the year, we will announce a charity recipient whose work aligns with our goal of supporting women in coffee growing communities.
This isn’t to say that we are paying women less for coffee this year – in fact, partly to do with an increase in global coffee prices, we are paying on average 50% more for all coffees purchased in 2022, significantly increasing the profitability of farmers both male and female. And this year, we have made our No Boundaries Blend – our signature seasonal blend – 100% grown by women. Though coffees grown by women feature in all of our blends, we felt that this special designation presents further opportunity to share the successes – and a delicious cup – of the women we work with. We’ll always have information on our website about each producer we work with – no matter what blend or how it was roasted. Because bringing these stories to life is one of the reasons we started Caravan in the first place.
Pictured: Doña Fabiola Mena, pictured at her house in Risaralda, Colombia.
Photo courtesy of Andrea Jimenez.