There are 125 million people worldwide that rely on coffee for their income, according to the Huffington Post. And 70% of those who tend and harvest coffee worldwide are women. But only 15% of these women are in leadership positions i.e. owning the coffee, land, or serving as exporters or business leaders. Growing coffee in general is difficult, but women farmers face significant additional constraints compared to their male counterparts. Women often have less access to land titles, credit, information, training and resources such as equipment. Women are also much less likely to become members of cooperatives or build business connections because of time constraints related to their roles of taking care of the home and children, lesser mobility, and lack of financial understanding or control in the household.
But what happens when women acquire the tools to grow better coffee and control their own businesses? Well, they typically reinvest 90% of their income in the families and their communities, with wider ripple effects on the towns they live in. Research shows that increased access to resources for women, particularly in the agricultural industry, has great effects on education, health, nutrition and overall welfare, and on poverty reduction. For women - and thus families and communities - to thrive, traditional gender divisions need to stop confining women to subsistence production and start looking at women’s potential in the commercial sphere.
De la Gente works to offer equal economic opportunities for both men and women in the coffee farming industry. Across our exporting cooperatives, approximately 25% are women. But we still have more work to do, which is why we have created the Women’s Fund with the help of the BFB Foundation. The fund has been created to build capacity for women through access to information, credit, infrastructure and other business development services.
We are proud that we have been able to support Lesbia and Marta of the San Miguel Escobar cooperative in purchasing their own land. They both now own land on which they will produce coffee and earn a living for themselves and their family. Virgilia will shortly follow suit, and in the next few days hopes to purchase four cuerdas of land (slightly more than 1 acre), already planted with Arabica coffee trees. The financing that DLG provided will set them on the path to real economic opportunity for their families.
To enable more women to become income-earners for their families and build themselves a liveihood through coffee farming you can make a donation online.