Visibility & Voice: Dulce Elena Barrera Giron, Cup Taster's Pioneer from Guatemala

Family & friends welcome Dulce home. June 2019.

Family & friends welcome Dulce home. June 2019.

For those who attended World of Coffee Berlin this past June, you’ll recall that some of the loudest voices cheering during the Cup Taster’s Championship were supporting Dulce Barrera of Guatemala. An accomplished woman in coffee and honorary member of IWCA Guatemala, we caught up with Dulce after the Berlin competition to hear more about who she is, her challenges & success, and the wisdom she’d like to share.

As shared with Ximena Lainfiesta, IWCA Chapter Relations Assistant

My name is Dulce Elena Barrera Giron, I am 40 years old and I was born in San Miguel las Dueñas, Sacatepéquez, Guatemala. I am a coffee producer, with 16 years of experience in the coffee world. On January 4, 2002, I began my work in the management area of Finca Bella Vista. Eight years later a small laboratory opened that had a taster named Jorge de León. He was a man who carried out his tastings with the buyers and eventually with his owner, Luis Pedro Zelaya. Both tend to encourage all staff to learn the method of coffee tasting. At the beginning everyone came to the tastings but later I was the only person who stayed learning. In 2015 there were not enough staff for the coffee tastings so I decided to certify myself as Q Grader but I thought it was not the time and that I needed more practice and experience. A year later, Luis Pedro motivated me to participate in the first tasting competition in Guatemala where I had no idea what the competition would be like. Even so I participated and I was amazed since I got the seventh place. The same year I decided to become certified as a Catadora Q Grader and participated in the tasting competition in 2017, 2018 and 2019, being in the first three places of tasting. What have been your biggest challenges? My biggest challenges were my hiring to work in the administrative area since I would like to do catasions (cupping) so I decided to finish all my tasks for which I had been hired staying late, without seeing my daughter many times and arriving late at home when she was already asleep. Sometimes I think that if I had not sacrificed my family, I would never have learned to taste or I would not have so much experience.

Dulce’s early years at Buena Vista Farm.

Dulce’s early years at Buena Vista Farm.

I can honestly say that it was worth everything. Representing Guatemala in an international event can generate a lot of tension. What I can say to the young people is: "Take a risk, do not be afraid of failure". I tried it three times and on the last chance I was close to the goal and I want to keep trying again. You never have to give up until you have achieved your goals. Of course, nothing is easy but you just need discipline and a lot of desire to do things and support them with my knowledge so that they want to be different. We all know that every part of the coffee value chain is important. But it is important to strengthen the image of women more because we are involved from the store to the toasting, farm management and benefits. I know that all the positions are important and not all of us have the same opportunities to learn or study, therefore I believe that the image of women should be strengthened in all their habits in the coffee industry. A thousand medium-term plans are to have my own laboratory and participate in quality competitions and coffee auctions. In the long term, specialize to give courses since I like to teach others. I also want to travel a lot and learn more about coffee in other countries.

Learn more about Dulce and her experiences in an April 2019 piece from the Women in Coffee Project and Daily Coffee News. Link here.

About “Visibility & Voice”

The IWCA Global Organization provides a platform to amplify the visibility and voice of women in coffee. To see & hear more, please join our social media channels (links at the bottom of this website) or connect directly IWCA Chapter leaders, from our network of 24 countries, via:

Engage with Ethiopian Women in Coffee: An invitation to all interested stakeholders

An open letter from the Elected Board of the Ethiopian Women in Coffee Alliance

Ethiopia Women in Coffee Alliance (EWiCA), also known as the IWCA Ethiopia Chapter, was legally established in 2016 to benefit women in the coffee value chain by sharing information about the sector, by providing capacity building, training, creating supply chain and a networking environment so that women can share, support and learn from each other. The association has 40 members, all of whom are formidable businesswomen, coming together to support one another and all women across the coffee value chain.

We at EWiCA believe partnership is key to tackle major challenges we are facing in the coffee industry and specifically challenges in regard to our women in coffee. Over the past three years, we have been able to create bigger impacts by working closely with international and local partners.

The association has changed leadership in June 2019. The new board will be serving the association for two years. As part of our two year plan, we are building on our partnership approach by launching the Association's first annual event titled: Strong Women Strong Coffee: Collaborate, Enable & Impact.

For the years 2020 and 2021 the aim of the EWiCA is to achieve our major objectives; i.e. working towards a sustainable livelihoods and increased visibility of women in the coffee value chain while creating the platform to engage our members in capacity building, skills development and networking opportunities. By doing this, we believe we build strong women that can compete globally, encourage and build other women in the sector and impact the coffee industry positively.

We will officially launch our new efforts in a half day event October 4th, 2019 in Addi Ababa. We invite interested stakeholders to join us! While celebrating the International Coffee Day, at this unique and pioneering event we will:

  • Create awareness about Ethiopian Women in Coffee Sectoral Association

  • Bring on board short term and long term partners to invest in our vision

  • Facilitate networking platform for our members and esteemed guests

  • Illustrate the untapped potential of Ethiopian coffee, its national brand & women in the Ethiopian coffee industry.

The event includes short presentation, testing different coffees of Ethiopia, display & auctioning of coffee & women themed art as well as a cultural music.

We are pleased to invite you to Strong Women Strong Coffee: Collaborate, Enable & Impact at the Skylight Hotel, Addis Ababa on October 4th, 2019. For more information about the EWiCA, the Strong Women Strong Coffee event, or to receive a formal invitation, please contact me directly (email link here).

Together, let us enable Strong Women=Strong Coffee!


Mesert Desta, EWiCA President

Visibility & Voice: IWCA Brasil Recap from World Coffee Producers Forum

Summary by Helga Andrade, IWCA Brasil

The IWCA Brasil Chapter and several subchapters began the week of World Coffee Producer’s Forum with the agronomic basics. We met the researcher Sergio Parreiras Pereira in a visit to Instituto Agronômico de Campinas (IAC), the world's largest coffee germplasm bank. The visit was conduced together with Dona Ivone, a strong women in her 88 years, who worked for 65 years at IAC handling the first experimental fields in Brasil.

The World Coffee Producer’s Forum (Campinas, Brasil. July 10-11, 2019) gathered men and women to think together about how to solve the main problems faced by coffee producers in the recent years. Representatives from producing countries including Asia, Africa and the Americas were divided into four workshop groups, each of them focused on an important matter for the coffee chain: economic sustainability; market mechanisms to protect incomes; coffee price formulation; and consumption promotion.

One of the points showcased by PhD. Jeffrey Sachs (Columbia University), the keynote speaker, was the importance of observing the 5th Sustainable Development Goal: Gender Equity, in order to guarantee a sustainable future for coffee production. The event counted with important women as speakers: Vanusia Nogueira (BSCA), Ana Illy (Illy Cafe), Phyllis Johnson (BD Imports), Sarah Mason (Shift/ID Coffees), Annette Pensel (Global Coffee Platform), and Patricia Carvalho (3corações). Carvalho presented the case of Florada, a contest for women producers developed by 3corações and supported by IWCA Brasil, which was awarded the Prize ODS 2019 by United Nations.

The IWCA Brasil board, together with representatives from different subchapters and producing regions (Cerrado Mineiro, Mantiqueira de Minas, Campo das Vertentes, Sul de Minas, São Paulo) contributed during the workshops to develop insights for the future of the coffee supply chain. World Coffee Producer’s Forum Speaker Phyllis Johnson recognized the work of IWCA Brasil to mobilize and empower women in the country: "Women can do incredible things", she stated.

Photos from throughout the week, shared by Helga Andrade of IWCA Brasil, and Josiane Cotrim, IWCA Global Organization Strategic Advisor.

About “Visibility & Voice”

The IWCA Global Organization provides a platform to amplify the visibility and voice of women in coffee. In this post, Helga Andrade of IWCA Brasil shares a brief recap of last week’s World Coffee Producer’s Forum held in Campinas, Brasil. To see & hear more, please join our social media channels (links at the bottom of this website) or connect directly IWCA Chapter leaders, from our network of 24 countries, via:

Thank you, Mama Faraji. Rest Peacefully.


Ms. Fatima Faraji, Mama Faraji as she was known to so many, passed away yesterday but her legacy will live on for generations. Her influence, impact, and respect, extend far beyond Tanzania, IWCA, and even the world of coffee.

Reflecting on Mama Faraji, Phyllis Johnson shares “She was a star long before joining our circle. She took the first steps towards a better future for women in coffee in Africa. When the IWCA started its search for identifying women leaders in east Africa we knew that Tanzania would be a difficult place.  Not only because of the vast size of the country but because of the multitude of religions, culture, and languages.  Everyone on the team that knew the country voiced the difficulty we would face in initially identifying the right individuals.  After several conversations and reaching out to others one name continued to surface, Fatima Faraji.

When she walked into Africa’s first IWCA training program in Kampala Uganda, October 2009, almost 10 years ago, the participants in the program knew who she was  and went to greet her with honor and respect.  Mama Faraji made all the difference in the class, she was the one that many of the women aspired to be.  She lived up to her reputation in every way. She decided to become a coffee farmer later in life, it was her second career.  She’d lived in Paris and loved to dance, a global citizen with great respect.  

She never saw her role as one of very few women serving on the Tanzania Coffee Board representing her market segment as being a burden or a challenge.  She stood up boldly and voice her opinion and fought to  the finish when necessary.”

All are welcome to use the comment field below to share reflections that honor such an incredible woman.

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