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Women in Coffee

The Future of Coffee is Female: How Women #PressforProgress in the Coffee Industry

March carries with it the promise of spring, as whispers of warm weather make their way into the rhythm of our everyday: flowers bloom around us, coat weather turns into “maybe I should bring a sweater” weather, and we become restless with the fresh potential of a new season. March, as it happens, is also Women’s History Month and while tuning our ear to new beginnings, we remember the women throughout history who have shaped our understanding of the world today. These women are pioneers, experts in paving the way for impact and innovation, and undeterred by limiting systems designed to privilege the voices of a powerful few.

Women in coffee are no different. The coffee supply chain is fundamentally broken, with over 20 million coffee farmers living at or below the poverty line. Women represent a good majority of these farmers, and are responsible for up to 70% of the labor in coffee production. Despite their critical role in coffee quality and cultivation, women have been traditionally relegated to positions of relative powerlessness, without the land ownership and income necessary to establish themselves as leaders in a challenging industry.

Yet women are invaluable to the specialty coffee we enjoy every day: on the farm, they are responsible for tasks such as supervising and irrigating seedbeds, harvesting, processing, and selling. According to a report from CQI, “women’s work in coffee growing is mainly performed during those phases that affect the sensory quality of production.” In short: women are instrumental in shaping the taste of the specialty coffee we know and love.

But in many coffee-growing countries, coffee continues to be considered a man’s crop, and women’s work often goes unpaid and unrecognized. Men, in control of marketing and managing coffee income, remain closest to the market. As land owners, they have access to valuable training and development opportunities, programs that lack the representation and perspective of the female farmers essential to the production process.

At Vega Coffee, we work with women every day who demonstrate that coffee belongs equally to both men and women. These female farmers use their skill and expertise to craft the coffee they’ve spent years cultivating on their farms into a beautiful finished good for coffee lovers around the world. They are entrepreneurs and leaders in their industry; by taking a chance on roasting, our farmers secure up to four times more income, which they invest back into their families and into furthering their own education. Women like Alma, Nordia, Indira, and Mayra (whose incredible story is featured in this month’s Cuento) take risks to transform coffee for the better, and pave the way for future women farmers to revive both the coffee industry and their own communities.

In honor of International Women’s Day, we send a warm thank you to you for your support of these incredible women pioneers who are the heart and soul of Vega Coffee.

By choosing farmer-roasted Vega Coffee, you participate in an industry-wide movement toward gender equity, a change crucial to both the sustainability of coffee and the welfare of the farmers who produce it. You create a market for transformative models that seek to remedy broken systems, and as a result, allow companies like us to continue to a imagine an inclusive and sustainable future for coffee and beyond.

So a heartfelt thank you for your commitment to #PressforProgress alongside our team of incredible women, and we hope you join us in celebrating women around the world with a cup of Vega this International Women’s Day!

* Church, Ruth Ann and Josiane Cotrim Macieira "Breaking New Ground In Gender Research in Coffee,” The International Women’s Coffee Alliance, published by The National Coffee Association.

**For more information on the role of women in coffee production, check out “The Way Forward,” a practical and informative report created by the Coffee Quality Institute's Partnership for Gender Equity. This report helped informed the viewpoints contained in the above article.

By Gabby Rodriguez, Vega Coffee

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