Exploring Gender Equity in Coffee—Next Stop: Uganda!

IMG_8011by Kimberly Easson, Coffee Quality Institute

You’ve probably been hearing a lot about gender equity and women’s empowerment, and it’s no coincidence, since the development world has been highlighting the importance of this issue in global development circles. Statistics are impressive for both the challenge and the opportunity. For example, these data are taken from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2010 – 2011, State of Food and Agriculture Report:

  •  Of the world’s estimated 1 billion poor, 70% are women.
  • Women produce half the world’s food, yet own less than 2% of the world’s land.
  • Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, yet earn only a tenth of its income.
  • If women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 – 30 percent. This would raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent, in turn reducing the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17 percent.

IMG_3785In the coffee industry, we’ve also begun to hear more. Of course organizations like the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) and Café Femenino have been advocating for gender equity in coffee for more than 10 years. More recent reports from industry leaders such as Root Capital and Twin Trading have showcased work in gender lens investing and community development projects. And in October, Agri-Pro Focus and partners published a comprehensive Tool Kit, Sustainable Coffee as a Family Business: Approaches and tools to include women and youth.

To help inform the opportunity at hand, the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) is spearheading a collaborative initiative, the Partnership for Gender Equity (PGE). This multi-stage initiative harnesses the collaborative spirit of the coffee industry to address gender gaps as an avenue to more viable coffee communities, ultimately improving the quantity and quality of coffee they produce. In the first phase focusing on research, a series of workshops linked to an extensive academic literature review highlights gender dynamics and strengthens participants’ ability to act.

IMG_3792The first workshop in southern Colombia brought together 34 men and women from small-scale farming communities in Cauca, and seven international participants. During the three-day program, participants had the opportunity to explore, first-hand, the realities of coffee farmers, gain new perspectives about the challenges and aspirations of men and women, and contribute to building a roadmap to greater gender equality in the coffee sector.

Through a series of guided exercises, producer and industry participants gained new perspectives on the value of contributions from both men and women. They also identified opportunities to work together to foster greater gender balance that could enable communities to better address challenges and reach their goals for the future together.

Samantha Veide, chair of the Sustainability Council for SCAA, and sustainability director at Mars Drinks comments, “The workshop was a unique opportunity to explore with a community how the gendered division of labor impacts their daily lives. Gender dynamics impact entire communities, not just women. Watching men and women grappling collectively to define a better future for their community was very inspiring.”

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.38.33 AMA second workshop was recently held in Nicaragua in January and now the focus turns to Uganda in February. The 2300 member Gumutindo cooperative in eastern Uganda will host the workshop, providing a foundation for better understanding of the East Africa context of gender in coffee. The International Trade Centre is supporting local costs and a one-day workshop about coffee quality and market linkages. Many industry leaders are already confirmed – and, there is still room for you!

Gender will be featured prominently at this year’s Symposium–don’t miss this unique chance to be at the forefront of one of the industry’s most important sustainability topics.

A post-AFCA Gender Workshop will be held in Mbale at Gumutindo Farmers Cooperative on February 15-19, 2015. More information is available here.


Kimberly is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Gender Program Advisor for the Coffee Quality Institute where she is spearheading the Partnership for Gender Equity and other strategic alliances for the organization. Previously, as the Director of Producer Services and Relations at Fairtrade International in Bonn, Germany, she held responsibility for producer capacity building services for over one million producers in 63 countries. Her work with Fairtrade was instrumental in securing high value market linkages for producer organizations with traders, manufacturers and retailers in the US, Canada and Europe. She is a past board member of the SCAA, member of the Sustainability Council, Co-Founder and past-President of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) and Co-Founder of the JavaJog for a Cause.