Celebrating The International Day of Rural Women

The first International Day of Rural Women was observed on October 15, 2008 and was established by the United Nations to recognize the critical contributions of rural women. This year, surrounded by the aroma of fresh coffee and the sights of cacao beans, the tireless women of the Costa Rica Chapter of the International Women Coffee Alliance (IWCA), along with the valuable cooperation of CoopeTarrazu, the Department of Agriculture (MAG) and the National Center for Women (INAMU), hosted the first ever Fair to celebrate the Rural Women's International Day in Costa Rica.  

Honored by the presence of more than 30 women farmers, representing communities from nearby Tarrazu, Perez Zeledon, and as far as Monteverde, Talamanca and Limon, these special women shared their farming experiences and lifted each others spirit with the solidarity that can only be found among women farmers.

Attendees heard stories of backbreaking work and sacrifice. From fishing, to coffee, and cacao farming the CoopeTarrazu warehouse was transformed into a showroom filled with the fruit of women’s labor.  Over 25 stands were present offering single origin coffees, hand made chocolates, farmer’s raincoats, aprons, leather, recycled artisan crafts, natural beauty products, and delicious recipes made with coffee and organic chocolate ingredients. The weekend celebration was a clear display of the undeniable spirit of entrepreneurship and strength of women. 

The (IWCA- Costa Rica Chapter) is proud to support women farmers, and to advocate for gender equality and work opportunities. Aside from their own coffee brand, Women’s Harvest, perhaps their most important achievement thus far was the creation of an International Certification designed to empower women, Women Care Certified.  This past weekend, CoopeTarrazu, one of the most progressive and successful cooperatives in Costa Rica, with over 1500 women members, recognized the efforts of the Alliance and the importance of Women Care Certified by committing to become the first Cooperative to be certified in the country. This is a remarkable step towards guaranteeing a gender equity policy and the empowerment of the women in this cooperative.  Along with the recent signing of the CoagroNevada cooperative in Colombia, the Certification is gaining momentum.

Reactivating El Salvador's Coffee Sector

In recent years coffee production in El Salvador has declined in the face of challenges like climate change, insecurity within the country, low coffee prices, and higher costs to maintain and process crops. In response to this crisis eight of the country's national coffee organizations convened to discuss how to reactivate the coffee sector, and in October of 2016 signed a memorandum of understanding addressing the Unity to Reactivate El Salvador Coffee Fields. 

The leaders recognized the urgent need to come together and address factors like economic growth and lack of opportunities and jobs. The following objectives were identified as the greatest needs:

1. Strengthen the Coffee Institution having a conciliation within coffee the organizations

2. Integrate the actors and/or entities needed to reactivate coffee industry.

3. Support the design of a strategic plan including the agricultural, economic and financial keys.

4. Create an adequate environment to allow funds for research, education and extension required by industry.

5. Promote high productivity of coffee plantations to guarantee offer of competitive good well known Salvadoran coffee quality.

6. Contribute to the Alliance for the Prosperity of the North Triangle attracting resources from International cooperates.

7. Create the necessary conditions to attract funds for the coffee industry investment and growth.

The organizations are engaging key stakeholders to help accomplish these goals, as they would have a large impact for the El Salvador's economy and overall coffee production and exporting.



IWCA Scholarship Success Stories

IWCA is a global peer network that advocates to empower women in coffee to achieve gender equity and sustainable lives. Through donations we are able to establish scholarship programs that provide women the opportunity to attend industry events and educational trainings. While these experiences have a powerful impact for the women who are selected, it also has a lasting impact for the communities where they live and work. In our Scholarship Stories posts you will hear women explain how these scholarships have been valuable to their professional growth in their own words. If you would like to contribute to future scholarships click here.


I was awarded my scholarship in 2015 for the IV Colombia Convention. Thanks to the scholarship, and first Female Barista All Stars event at the convention, I learned new techniques and different ways to approach customers from other female baristas

This knowledge has empowered me as a woman and motivated me to share my newly acquired techniques with other baristas in my country and coffee lovers. It was also enhanced by curricula and I had a promotion and additional recognition in my job. This action motivated me to start introducing my daughter to the barista profession.


I learned sustainability is of great relevance in coffee. Back at home in Guatemala I shared these concepts with my father, with whom I work. We include sustainability in our goals to preserve our legacy in the coffee farm. Thank you for investing in empowering women, soon we will exponentially flourish.


I was awarded the IWCA Scholarship in 2013 to attend the IWCA Guatemala Convention. Thanks to this event I learned I could improve in my mill process to start exporting and moving forward to direct trade. Now I am the president of Guatemala Chapter and I am very happy to work in my coffee project and share time with my coffee colleagues and contribute to the sustainability of the coffee industry.


I was lucky to be awarded a Scholarship for IWCA Colombia Convention in 2015. Participating in the First Female Barista Challenge in Bogota improved our barista skills and made me aware of the importance of knowing the origin of my coffee and started in my cafeteria, giving voice to every cup of coffee, teaching our customers about the hard work it takes to produce a coffee of excellent quality and inviting them to visit my farms. Now I am in the Honduras Chapter Board. And happy Charlotte Malval our Team leader in Colombia visited us in Honduras this 2016.

Margaret Mithamo (left) pictured with IWCA President Mery Santos

Margaret Mithamo (left) pictured with IWCA President Mery Santos


I was extremely happy to be awarded a scholarship to participate in the IWCA Convention in Colombia. I met the IWCA Board and set strong bonds with the Chapter Relations Committee. My biggest challenge is always in September, as it is our core coffee business month and we have to be able handle it all. So far, I am so grateful because my visit to Colombia has widely opened doors for IWCA Kenya. I am now close in collaboration with our coffee directorate, in proposed program collaboration with CQI and UTZs, and finally the current operation I am undertaking on behalf of Coffee Research Institute is targeting the women and youth farmers. I started a marketing millage at Colombia and we are still following up on it.


I was awarded  a scholarship in year 2015 for IWCA Colombia Convention. I learned the importance to share knowledge with other coffee colleagues. I also learned that I am an artist in the coffee chain and to put my heart into making every cup as a true treasure that the farmer gives me to share with my customers and coffee friends.

Back at home in Honduras, I decided to open a Coffee Academy with my family in Santa Barbara. I teach the techniques learned from our leader in Colombia and the coffee knowledge to thrive my students the passion of my coffee culture to multiply this love for coffee in them. At home I always serve my friends using a V60.

Maria Rosa Elena Romero with coffee that she roasted.

Maria Rosa Elena Romero with coffee that she roasted.


At the 2011 IWCA Convention in El Salvador, I had the opportunity to be awarded a scholarship. This close approach to IWCA made me aware of so many women involved in the coffee world and encouraged me to raise my voice for my coop. I also asked the bank for a loan to by a small farm and became a producer not only a staff at my coop. I also continue with my bakery for additional income for my family.

Now, I am also roasting coffee and distributing it to stores around my home town in Jucuapa, San Miguel. Thanks to the micro loan program from Earth Choice; I am able to buy printed packaging bags and to buy green coffee to roast.


Awarded a Scholarship 2015 IV IWCA Colombia Convention she learned about WOMEN CARE certification; finding it very appealing for Peruvian Chapter, and the Board of Directors agreed. Now, Rosa Maria has started contacts with Costa Rica Chapter to implement the Certification in Peru soon. As a Chapter President she and the Board assures to promote IWCA in Peru. At her work she promotes coffee with visits to farms.


I am truly grateful for the opportunity that has been given to me to be part of the IWCA 2015 in Colombia. It has opened great doors to me to continue inspiring others by passing on the passion in coffee and latte art. Being a barista and a teacher, I get to share my knowledge and experiences in IWCA, meeting all empowered women the coffee industry. We have proved that women have the same will and strength of a man with the desire for success and purpose to help others.

Gender Equity Is The Key To Sustainable Development--We Need Action Now!

By:  Jennifer R. Gallegos, Vice President Operations, IWCA


Gender Equity is Key to our Sustainable Future - the IWCA (Int'l Women's Coffee Alliance) has thousands of women already in place to take action!

The gender equity topic is finally getting the attention it deserves in agricultural commodities thanks to organizations like the United Nations' ITC, COSA, FNC, CQI, CRS, and the list goes on. If we believe (and hopefully everyone does) what the data and research is telling us – that gender equity is key to sustainable development and to the future of quality agricultural products for generations to come; then we must start to make significant investments in women at every level of the value chain. It is time for action! 

The IWCA (International Woman’s Coffee Alliance) and its chapters have been well positioned to play a significant role in providing solid solutions. Solutions, including: 1) training in quality & productivity, good farming practices, skill development, general business acumen,  2) financing and micro-credit, 3) product procurement/market linkages, 4) next generation succession planning and youth involvement.

The IWCA is working with like-minded organizations to develop gender equity principles that can be applied to sustainable and responsible sourcing initiatives. We are also working on a platform to get coffees to market that are benefiting and empowering women. We are hoping to expand our successful partnership with the ITC beyond Africa. We will be exploring opening a chapter in the US (lots of interest); and most importantly, we will ensure that the women along every level of the value chain in coffee continue to be represented and heard.

Again, if we believe what the research is telling us...then significant investments and resources required to accomplish sustainability goals in the coffee sector will have to be applied to women! These investments can be managed DIRECTLY through our network of organized chapters that connect thousands of women and men in both coffee producing and consuming countries worldwide! 

Read CQI's Gender Equity Stage I findings here.

Additional reading:

Women, Business And The Law 2016 - Getting To Equal by The World Bank http://www.empowerwomen.org/en/~/documents/2015/09/11/15/53/women-business-and-the-law-2016--getting-to-equal

 The Global Gender Gap Report 2014 by the World Economic Forum http://www.weforum.org/reports/global-gender-gap-report-2014

Gender Inequality Index (GII) by UNDP http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/gender-inequality-index-giiGender

Development Index (GDI) by UNDPhttp://hdr.undp.org/en/content/gender-development-index-gdi

2014 UNESCO Report on Gender Equality and Culture by UNESCO http://www.unesco.org/new/en/culture/gender-and-culture/gender-equality-and-culture/the-report/

Women in Business and Management: Gaining Momentum by ILO article: http://iloblog.org/2015/05/29/reflecting-global-change-for-women-in-business-and-management/


Gender Resources from Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO)http://www.fao.org/gender/gender-home/gender-resources/en/

Strengthening the Business Case for Women's Economic Empowerment by International Center for Research on Women http://www.icrw.org/media/news/strengthening-business-case-women%E2%80%99s-economic-empowerment?gclid=CNLMuMr39scCFUqRHwodJrMBEg

Women's Economic Empowerment documents by OECD http://www.oecd.org/dac/gender-development/womenseconomicempowerment.htm

Women's Economic Empowerment resources by UN Women http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/economic-empowerment

The Business of Empowering Women: Where, Why, and How by McKinsey & Co http://mckinseyonsociety.com/the-business-of-empowering-women/


A Quiet Peaceful Revolution: Women in Coffee Part II

By Kelle Vandenberg, Vice President of Marketing, Pacific Bag Inc. & IWCA Vice-President

Women are assuming more leading roles in the world of coffee, but there are still many challenges for them to overcome. Part II of our continuing series on women in coffee focuses on women from El Salvador, the Philippines and Burundi who are innovating, teaching and giving back to their communities and the impact this is having on the farms and communities. Once again, the article is in their voices, in their words.

Within the world of coffee, women are taking more predominate roles in all aspects of the industry. In both consuming countries and in producing countries, women hold key positions of power, are leaders within their communities, and lend their voice to policies that affect their world.

I have heard the term “quiet revolution” used to describe the changing role women play within the coffee industry. The gender gap remains a real and true divide. Through the voices of the Women in Coffee, you begin to understand the challenges that women must overcome.

To quote my friend Lucia Abrego De Ortiz, a fourth-generation coffee producer (Las Mercedes Farm), El Salvador, “I think there are a lot of amazing women…the coffee business always used to be handled by men, but because of destiny or times, now more women are in charge of farms, as producers, and are getting involved in all facets of the coffee chain.”

The coffee industry has compounded challenges ahead with the rust outbreak affecting 53 percent of all coffee grown in the world, in all regions, per the International Coffee Organization, London, and the rising global temperatures affecting coffee yield worldwide, which is reducing overall coffee production.

It will take innovation and diversification to stabilize the coffee crisis. I believe that women are coming into larger roles in coffee due to the “changing times” allowing diversification of ideas, practices, and policy. The expanding role of women in coffee impacts directly the livelihood of their immediate community. Women, statistically, keep the money local, share their knowledge, and give back to their community. We see this happening all over the world, in every level of economic situations.

In Part II of Women in Coffee, I share with you a glimpse of some of the many women of coffee and the incredible example of successful innovation, teaching, and giving back to their community that strengthens the world of coffee, one farm at a time...

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In Their Voices: Women in Coffee Part I

By Kelle Vandenberg, Vice President of Marketing, Pacific Bag Inc. & VP of IWCA

In the world of coffee, women do the majority of the work, but still are faced with many challenges including financial and cultural ones. Organizations such as the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) are working to improve the lives of women in the coffee sector by removing barriers and offering education, training, developing skills, creativity and business opportunities. In Part I of a two-part series, we hear from women in the coffee sector–at origin–who have struggled, but didn’t stray from their journeys in coffee and found their voices along the way.  Below are two of these women’s stories. 


I live in the United States and enjoy a rather comfortable life, filled with laughter, joys, triumphs, and occasionally, challenges. I make choices about my life every day. Small choices, big choices, and some of them have changed my life. My small corner of the world is not perfect, but it is pretty golden. I am grateful that I was able to make the decisions about my life that led me to the road I am on today.

But what if my life were stripped of those choices, paired back to a minimalistic existence with few options for education, for opportunities, or the hope of change? In many places in the world, choice is not something tangible, but something only dreamed about. The paths aren’t chosen, but rather, there is but one road to go down.

Often times, it is due to economic circumstances or lack of educational opportunities and cultural barriers. For women in many places around the world, it is all three. Many of these places happen to be where coffee is grown. Of the world’s estimated one billion poor, 70 percent are women. Women own less than 1 percent of the world’s titled land, per IWCA data. Yet, in the world of coffee, women do most of the work. 

This is the first in a two-part series that will focus on the stories of women in coffee and how they inspire change. These women found their voices. In fact, when I reached out to women to share their stories and their journeys, they didn’t just speak out; these women sang—with pride, with honor, and with courage. In the stories we will be sharing, you will learn about their journeys and the road they are on—in their voices and in their own words. I am honored to introduce you to the Women in Coffee…

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Walk with IWCA through the Door of its Second Decade

By Desiree Logsdon
IWCA President, VP Marketing, Bunn-o-matic Corporation


Twenty four women arrived in Seattle the week of September 16 ready to meet face-to-face, embark in courageous conversations and define how to successfully execute a strategic plan.  The fuel behind their passion: the International Women’s Coffee Alliance, a group that empowers women in the international coffee community to achieve meaningful and sustainable lives and encourages and recognizes the participation of women in all aspects of the coffee industry.

As I was handed the gavel to lead this group into their second decade of work, the sense of responsibility was humbling.  So many women give their time and talents to build a spirit of hope for women working in the coffee industry. 


Throughout the next two years, I want to share our journey from the eyes of a volunteer leader.  We have a lot of work to do.  In Seattle we committed to building value for the women in our chapters present in 15 countries, creating one global community, expanding our revenue stream and hiring executive leadership – all in a 24-month time frame!                 

Can we do it?  I invite you to follow us, encourage us with your thoughts,  celebrate our successes and share in our learning opportunities.   We are ready.  Women around the world are counting on us.

Blog posts are from Desiree's bunn-o-matic blog >

The IWCA and BUNN Head to Oxford

By Desiree Logsdon
IWCA President, VP Marketing, Bunn-o-matic Corporation

IWCA  and BUNN were invited to The Saïd Business School at the University at Oxford, UK in May. The IWCA volunteer team was comprised of Shirrin Moayyad-Nespresso, Phyllis Johnson-BD Imports, Desiree Logsdon-BUNN and Pacita Juan-Women’s Business Council of the Philippines (photo left).

It all began when Mary Johnstone-Louis, a doctoral candidate in Management Research at the Saïd Business School, took interest in the IWCA’s mission to empower women in the international coffee community to achieve meaningful and sustainable lives; and to encourage and recognize the participation  of women in all aspects of the coffee industry.  Mary interviewed countless individuals in all segments of the coffee industry and traveled to areas of the globe where IWCA is doing their impactful work.  She developed a fascinating case study about the IWCA from what she learned.  As part of a carefully thought out plan, the organizers of the “Power Shift; The Oxford Forum for Woman in the World Economy” included the case study in the two-day program.  Case studies are usually reserved for students enrolled in MBA programs. 


Three professors were asked to present the case study: John Deighton, Harvard Business School and Peter Tufano and David Upton, Saïd Business School.  Along with the professors, three representatives from IWCA were invited to be part of the discussion.  This explains why BUNN went to Oxford.  Desiree Logsdon, VP of Marketing for BUNN and incoming president for IWCA, was part of the team.  The case study was presented in a traditional manner.  Attendees were sent the document prior to the conference.  The professors asked the audience to weigh-in on four questions regarding the work of the IWCA: Should IWCA develop a brand for coffees produced by the women they serve, should a coffee channel partner develop a women’s brand, should individual IWCA chapters develop a brand or should IWCA concentrate on advocacy for women in the coffee industry?

Other highlights of the two-day forum included several keynote addresses; Wu Qing, Founder of the Beijing Cultural Development Center for Rural Women presented  “Opening Opportunities for Women and Girls in Rural China” and Cherie Blair, Founder of Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, discussed “Technology for Women’s Enterprise Development; Perceptions and Practice.”

Guests at the forum were treated to a special coffee and chocolate tastingwith coffee from IWCA

Burundi and chocolate from Vivien Shelton Plantation.  Shirrin Moayyad, International Coffee Expertise Leverage Manager with Nespresso, demonstrated the nuances of cupping coffee for the crowd.

Blog posts are from Desiree's bunn-o-matic blog >