Like Pieces of a Puzzle: Reports on Women in Coffee

Written by Kaitlin Higgins, IWCA Volunteer

As women’s rights movements make headlines in the mainstream news, women’s equality has become a focus in the coffee industry as well. With this uptick in attention, including the selected “Women in Coffee” theme of International Coffee Day, on October 1, 2018, the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) has leveraged their network of 22 chapters and many volunteers to collate the resources recently made available on the subject.

The Overview of Published Reports on Women in Coffee: 2015 - 2018 was completed in December 2018 by a group of reviewers convened by IWCA Global's Research Alliance. The seven volunteers come from five countries: Brazil, Nicaragua, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Each of the volunteers, who work professionally in roles both within and outside of the coffee industry, are committed to promoting the need for more well-designed data collection, credible analysis and public sharing of evidence-based reports on the topic of women in coffee. The last few years have seen several new reports, some widely publicized in the coffee industry, and some less so. With this document, the IWCA hopes to make it easier for researchers interested in expanding this body of literature to assess the most recent quality and types of completed works, who has contributed important field work on the topic and where the gaps remain.

This overview, while restrained in scope, boasts thoughtful reviews of qualitative and quantitative research from trade organizations such as the International Coffee Organization (ICO), businesses like Nespresso, academic institutions in both the global north and south, and industry coalitions such as the Project for Gender Equity (PGE). We find that each contributes important aspects of the “the truth” regarding women in coffee. As Raquel Santos Soares Menezes, a professor at Universidade de Viçosa in Minas Gerais, Brazil, once said (paraphrased), “None of us ever has the entire truth. We all have a piece. Like a puzzle, we are putting the pieces together. Through collaboration with research, we will have a better understanding of the truth regarding women in coffee.”

Heading photo courtesy of Artisan Coffee Imports

Meet Me in Kigali!

Looking to make new coffee connections in 2019? Join IWCA at the 2019 African Fine Coffees Association (AFCA) Convention in Kigali, Rwanda, February, 12-15. Registration is still open! Please also join us for the IWCA Breakfast at AFCA on February 14!

To help you prepare, below are profiles of IWCA Chapter members who will be attending. We will continue to update with additional IWCA attendees over the coming weeks. Click on the links below to download the full profiles, and reach out to all IWCA Chapter members via the IWCA Chapter List webpage.

IWCA Burundi

Céline Niyungeko

Celine will represent IWCA Burundi at AFCA. She is an accomplished agronomist technician, quality analyzer, and controller ARFIC, the Coffee Regulatory Authority Branch.

IWCA Ethiopia Chapter

YA Coffee, Sara Yirga

Sourcing direct from smallholder farmers to deliver fairly-traded specialty and premium coffee to consumers worldwide, YA COFFEE is roasted and packed at source in Ethiopia, the origin of the best coffee in the world. Supporting sustainable livelihoods and biodiversity conservation, this husband and wife team is creating change through coffee.

IWCA Rwanda Chapter

Kalisimbi Mountain Coffee, Ms. Nepo Bitwayiki

Kalisimibi Mountain Coffee employess 90% women, and is driven by the mission to increase efficiency and effectiveness by producing high quality coffee and making use of all byproducts.

Nyamurinda Coffee Growers Ltd.

Nyamurinda coffee growers Ltd is a company owned by 2 women. It has a 15 ha coffee plantation located on Nyamurinda hill in Kibirizi sector. We work with 300 farmers grouped in 30 “amatsinda” or coffee associations.

Rwashoscco, Ms. Angelique Karekezi

Rwanda Small Holder Specialty Coffee Company (Rwashoscco) is a farmer owned business that focuses on marketing, export and roasting of the Rwanda’s highest quality coffee beans.

Sake Farm, Ms. Letitia Kayitesire

Sake Cofffe includes a coffee plantation and washing station that includes 2200 coffee farmers in the Ngoma District. In addition to producing high quality coffee, Sake Farm works to improve livelihoods by reducing poverty.

Tropic Coffee, Ms. Divine Mutuyimana

Our mission is to provide to our clients with the highest standard and quality coffee available across the world of consumer tastes and preferences, at a fair price, while following to our guiding values and increasing producers’ income.

Women in Coffee Initiative Ltd, Ms. Tushabe Joy

Women in coffee initiative Ltd was formed in 2014 to break that fear of women to enter into the coffee business. “Ishema Women’s Coffee” as a brand name for the coffee produced by Women in Coffee Initiative Ltd.

Image of Kigali accessed from Nairaland.com,

Reflections on 2018: Interview with IWCA Chapter Manager, Blanca Castro

Interview by Emmy Grace, IWCA volunteer

Although 2018 may be coming to a close, but for some coffee countries the harvest season is just beginning. The world of coffee never sleeps and that’s especially true of IWCA’s global network – with chapters around the world in different time zones and coffee cycles in different hemispheres, there are always hands at work. That’s in large part thanks to Blanca Castro, IWCA Chapter Manager. With years of insight and relationship building, Blanca has been instrumental in supporting IWCA chapters over the years in achieving the (literal) fruits of their labor. With this year being one of reflection, review and revision for the IWCA Global leadership team, there’s no better person to look back on 2018 than Blanca.

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EG: IWCA began its work in 2003 with women from the US, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. As of 2018, how many formal IWCA chapters are there? Any new ones that joined this year?

BC: There is an IWCA formal presence in 22 countries through established IWCA Chapters and no new additions this year. That’s because this year we concentrated on reviewing and updating important documents, such as the IWCA Chapter Formation Protocol, that had last been updated in 2011, and creating a new IWCA Code of Conduct based on our organizational values. The coffee industry is constantly changing, so it was vital that we updated these foundational documents to be sure that IWCA Global delivers the best support to the chapters and sets clear expectations. We decided to spend more time on strengthening this aspect of chapter relations before bringing on new chapters right now – we’re not closing the doors, but rather ensuring we have an even more solid foundation for current and existing chapters. We are also currently working to support groups in 14 additional countries in their efforts to form IWCA chapters, hopefully next spring.

EG: What is one of the biggest changes that happened this year?

BC: IWCA Global has been extremely lucky to have the current president, Kellem Agnew Emanuele, dedicate 100% of her time to IWCA. As a volunteer-run organization, it’s a challenging feat to balance personal and career obligations on top of the ever-evolving and growing IWCA network. Having Kellem onboard made me realize that IWCA has become a bigger and bigger platform, and it’s gaining traction in the coffee industry. For example, this year I was invited to the first Pu’er Specialty Coffee Forum in China to represent IWCA. We were considered global leaders at the same level as organizations such as the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) and the International Coffee Organization (ICO). That was a real eye-opener. Because of that, now more than ever we need a structure that can deliver, so focusing on our foundation documents this year was extremely important and useful.

EG: As IWCA has grown and evolved over the past 15 years, what do you think makes IWCA unique?

BC: IWCA has grown so much – I don’t think that when the initial founders started IWCA 15 years ago that they knew what it would become. What makes IWCA unique is that it gathers groups of women involved in coffee from around the world throughout the whole value chain, being mindful to reach marginalized, rural, and indigenous women.

Coffee is tricky – it has provided a lot of opportunities and it’s easy to romanticize it, but it’s also been the basis of a lot of struggle. The chapters have very localized issues that they centralize their work around to be a collective force. The common denominator for the groups is that they are all mothers, daughters and workers and share many of the same challenges around the world, not just specific to coffee, such as the price of coffee but the also laws and customs that make women earning a dignified living that much more of a challenge. These groups aren’t the big shots in the coffee industry, but groups of dedicated women that meet the chapter requirements and allow them to be empowered to make an impact. And while the focus is on women in coffee, men are involved as well as they need to be part of the conversation. The groups have a ripple effect and influence their communities, families and businesses.

EG: What notable global partnerships developed this year?

BC: We formed several great relationships this year. In particular, we signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the International Coffee Organization (ICO). Although IWCA has been a member of the ICO Private Sector Consultative Board for several years, through this MOU, IWCA and ICO now have a formal partnership to work together to strengthen the coffee sector and ensure that women have a seat at the table. We also had lots of support from independent coffee shops and roasters that organized activities and fundraisers within their own businesses to support IWCA. This was a great way to bring together coffee communities, particularly coffee consuming communities in the US and Europe, as it’s just as important to be reaching and educating the end consumer in addition to big industry.

EG: What surprised you most this year?

BC: I think just the overwhelming amount of opportunities and needs that exist, which is both overwhelming and exciting. We have 14 new countries that are in the chapter formation process to join this network, and there are more women that we want to support. I always imagine that there’s a big ocean of coffee and IWCA is a little boat that wants to reach other coasts – we need to upgrade our little boat to a ship to be able to reach more chapters and provide a strong structure.

EG: How did you celebrate International Coffee Day?

BC: This year’s International Coffee Day theme was “Women in Coffee”, so in preparation for this day we created a series of case studies from IWCA chapters to highlight their work and recognize recent chapter accomplishments and the local impact they make. It was a busy day for IWCA chapters organizing various events across the globe, but I was able to start it with a nice cup of coffee. In my home I have a little café of coffee from around the world thanks to all of the wonderful connections and friends that I’ve met. It’s been such a gift to be able to share the coffee and the stories behind each one every time I prepare coffee at home or have friends over.

EG: What do you hope to see in 2019?

BC: I hope to provide the current chapters a stronger structure with the revised documents that we worked on this year, particularly when it comes to developing project proposals. Chapters are formed with specific goals and issues in mind, and project proposals can help chapters achieve those goals ranging from skills training to improved infrastructure, while also strengthening leadership skills. Through this solid foundation, the chapters will be better able to accomplish their projects by being well equipped with clear goals and expectations.

EG: How can people support IWCA in 2019?

BC: IWCA welcomes financial donations and volunteers. We are constantly working to evolve our committees and welcome people that can provide support with knowledge and networking. Supporters can also contribute to specific countries and projects.

EG: What would you like to share with the IWCA network?

BC: I really admire everyone’s efforts and dedication to IWCA Global and at the chapter level from the current and past boards to the friends and supporters that I’ve met along the way. IWCA really is special.

A selection of events from 2018:

Let's Make Micro-Finance, Macro-Accessible

In 2016, the Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung Foundation (HRNS) presented the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) with a Microfinance Training Manual, supported by Earth’s Choice Women of Coffee Microfinance. Written by María Elisa Ruiz, Beatriz Fischersworring, Lucita Mendoza, and Verena Fischersworring, this manual incorporates information, methodologies, and best practices. Earth’s Choice Women of Coffee Microfinance President, Karen Cebreros and Executive Director, Roberta-Lauretti Bernhard, created the “Earth's Choice Learning Loan” program to provide access to affordable loans.  The program utilizes the manual to empower women and to learn crucial loan management and business skills.

As captured in the recent ICO Report, Gender Equality in the Coffee Sector, women coffee producers are among the most vulnerable in the coffee value chain, especially given that they have the lowest access to finance. As a result, they often have fewer resources and limited ability to invest in their own farms.

Access to Available Resources

The IWCA - together with HRNS and Earth’s Choice - are on a mission to change this. The Microfinance Manual provides a unique, accessible, and hands-on approach on how to improve women’s access to credit and share the skills and knowledge on managing funds efficiently and effectively. We want to make sure that all members and beneficiaries of the IWCA have access to this manual. But to do this, we need your help.

Training Session co-hosted by IWCA El Salvador Chapter

Training Session co-hosted by IWCA El Salvador Chapter

Currently, this manual is available in Spanish. As of this writing, IWCA Chapters are present in 22 countries, representing an estimated 800+ members and thousands of beneficiaries. Whereas nine of IWCA’s 22 Chapters are Spanish speaking, the remaining 13 communicate in English, French, and Portuguese.

Small Donation, Big Impact

With your support of $25 or more, we can raise the estimated $10,000 needed to translate the microfinance manual into English, French, and Portuguese and make the possibilities of micro-finance accessible across the globe.

To make a donation, please visit the IWCA Online Donation Portal, and select the “Microfinance Manual Translation” from the dropdown menu. If you would like to receive a copy of the Spanish Manual, please simply indicate this in a note when you make your donation.

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About the Manual

The Microfinance Management Training Manual promotes the economic and social empowerment of women by developing entrepreneurial, business, and administration skills to help women more effectively and efficiently manage their own microcredits and realize their business goals. Training focuses on women entrepreneurs who work individually, with a family business, or as part of associations.

The proposed training methodology uses a “learning loan” model, created for women entrepreneurs who do not have sufficient loan access, guarantees, or experience in successfully managing loans. Training is participatory, practical, and accessible for women with all levels of education: using real life experiences from participants, lessons are learned and good business management practices are drawn out.

Training Manual Objectives

• Promote mechanisms to improve access to microcredits as part of a solidarity economy

• Introduce the fundamentals on establishing a successful enterprise

• Familiarize women with the basic principles of a loan, including costs and price setting

• Improve management and administration of microfinances by women entrepreneurs, supporting better income generation to ultimately improve family and community welfare.

Starbucks Reserve Baristas Connect with IWCA

Written by Kaitlin Higgins, IWCA Research Alliance Volunteer

Starbucks recently introduced its newest venture touting increased quality and “the rarest, most extraordinary coffees Starbucks has to offer” through its Reserve roasteries and coffee bars. At the Starbucks Reserve bar in Wrigleyville (Chicago), Ill., baristas have taken a special interest in learning more about where their favorite coffee comes from.

According to Shawn Gancarz, the store’s manager, the team of baristas have done significant research on the important roles that women play in the production of coffee. Their internet searches brought them to the website of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA), and the Research Alliance page specifically, so Shawn got in touch with IWCA Global Board member and Research Alliance chair Ruth Ann Church. As president of Artisan Coffee Imports, Church happened to know that Starbucks Reserve serves a Rwandan coffee from the Abakundekawa Cooperative in the Gakenke region, and that cooperative is represented by Misozi Coffee, the same marketing group from which Artisan sources Rwandan women-grown coffee. Thanks to Gancarz’s email to Church in support of his baristas’ thirst for knowledge, the Starbucks Reserve staff got more than they expected in terms of connection with producers, stories to tell about coffee, women in coffee, and the challenges faced by farmers in Rwanda.

While in Kigali at the end of August, Church hosted a Skype discussion between some of the staff of the Wrigleyville Reserve Bar and Kevin Nkunzimana, Managing Director of Misozi Coffee, who represents Abakundekawa and other cooperatives, including the cooperative from which Artisan sources.

Out of their curiosity came new perspectives for the Starbucks staff to consider, from climate change to the economics of coffee. During the trans-Atlantic call, Gancarz, along with Ash Kolodziej (education, leadership, and training) and baristas Kate, Brian, and Tray, learned from Kevin that unexpected rainfall or droughts caused by climate change are a major challenge, as is engaging young people in coffee farming and finding ways to make it a marketable and desirable career.

Just about a month after this initial connection, on Sept. 24, Church and three of her IWCA Global Board colleagues visited the Wrigleyville store in person, thanks to serendipitous timing with their in-person board meeting taking place in Chicago. During a 9 PM tasting of Starbucks’ decaffeinated Costa Rican roast, Church, along with IWCA president Kellem Emanuele, co-Vice President and Treasurer Sharon Riechers, and chapter relations board member Maria Elena Botto, finally met Gancarz in person, and spoke with shift supervisor Carina and barista Alex, and several others.

Expanding on some of the information Nkunzimana had previously divulged, Maria Botto, who is also the President of the IWCA El Salvador Chapter, explained some of the challenges that she faces as a coffee producer in El Salvador. She explained how the “roya” or coffee leaf rust, is a pest that gets into the roots of the coffee trees, causing all the leaves to fall. Her farm was devastated in 2012 and left with only 10% of their pre-roya production level. Now, six years later, they are back to 25% of their earlier production levels. “The road to recovery is hard and long,” was basically Botto’s message.

Carina and Alex expressed that the opportunity to share with IWCA leaders and volunteers was particularly inspiring for them because of their educational background in women’s studies. Between their dedication to empowering coffee producers--particularly women--and the knowledge that has come from their own research and new connections, the Starbucks staff is energized to continue collaborating, and already have a few ideas brewing.

Nkunzimana had told the staff on the Skype call about Hingekawa, a group of women within the Abakundekawa cooperative, and given the success of the Abakundekawa coffee at Starbucks, there may be opportunity to encourage Starbucks buyers to support these women coffee producers in Rwanda, as well. Gancarz also suggested that he would like to see if there is interest at the Starbucks headquarters in Chicago to host another Skype call with producers at origin, this time including more staff at various levels.

Hoping to leverage the time and interest they have already invested in understanding and supporting women in coffee, some of the Wrigleyville staff see volunteering with IWCA as a natural next step. The baristas noted that, to involve more cafe staff and consumers, they could consider hosting a latte art throw down in support of IWCA, considering how popular those events are for Starbucks Reserve bars across the country.

If nothing else, this small but continuing encounter is a beautiful demonstration that baristas really do care about people and sharing the story behind the taste. Emanuele, Riechers, Botto and Church can attest to the amazing care they put into brewing their Costa Rica Hacienda Alsacia coffee using two different brew methods, and pairing it with fresh orange slices.

To use the baristas’ words, they will continue to “translate the work that IWCA does with female producers into a story that can be shared with consumers.”

As Mr. Nkunzimana had emphasized to the staff on that first Skype call with Rwanda, “you are our ambassadors. Thank you!”