As Women's History Month is upon us, it's important to recognize the contributions of women in various fields, including the coffee industry. One aspect of women's role in coffee that is often overlooked is their role as producers. In many coffee-growing countries, women are responsible for the majority of the labor-intensive work involved in coffee production, from planting and harvesting to processing and drying. In this blog, we'll explore the importance of women in the coffee industry and their significant contributions.
Women have been involved in coffee production for centuries, but their contributions have often gone unnoticed. Women are responsible for the quality of coffee beans, and their attention to detail and care in handling the beans can significantly impact the final product's taste and aroma. Women often work alongside their male counterparts but often face unique challenges due to gender biases and cultural norms.
Despite these challenges, many women have persevered and become successful entrepreneurs. In recent years, there has been a growing movement to empower women producers in the coffee industry, with initiatives to provide training, resources, and market access to women producers. These initiatives not only benefit women producers but also improve the economic and social conditions of coffee-growing communities.
One such initiative is the International Women's Coffee Alliance (IWCA), founded in 2003 to support women in the coffee industry. The IWCA provides training and resources to women producers, as well as networking and mentorship opportunities. Through the IWCA, women producers have established their own cooperatives, improved their farming practices, and gained access to new markets.
Another initiative is the Relationship Coffee Institute's (RCI) Women's Coffee Program, which provides training and resources to women producers in Central and South America. The program aims to empower women producers by giving them the knowledge and skills they need to become successful entrepreneurs. Through the program, women producers learn about coffee cupping, quality control, sustainable farming practices, business management, and marketing.
In conclusion, women have played significant roles in the coffee industry, from planting and harvesting to processing and drying. Despite facing unique challenges due to gender biases and cultural norms, many women in coffee have become successful entrepreneurs. As we celebrate Women's History Month, it's essential to recognize and appreciate the role of women in the coffee industry and support their continued growth and success.
Women's History Month and Bird Rock Coffee Roasters
We are proud to recognize the work of incredible women growing and producing coffee worldwide throughout the year and are incredibly proud to honor them this Women's history month!
This month we will highlight three incredible coffee offerings from women's only cooperatives, from women who are members of mixed-gender cooperatives, and from a women-owned farm: Women of Muungano Co-op: Congo Muungano, Sholi Cooperative: Sholi Natural, Anny Ruth: Loma La Gloria: Natural Pacamara.
CONGO MUUNGANO: Dried Apricot | Cola | Grains of Paradise
The word "Muungano" means "Togetherness" in the Swahili language.
Founded in 2009, the Muungano co-op comprises around 4,400 smallholder farmers, nearly half of whom are women. Gender justice is a principal focus of the members, as is integrating farmers from different ethnic groups into the operation. This Women's Lot comprises coffee cherries sourced only from women producers within the co-op. Funds raised from the sale of these cherries are reinvested to further develop the economic well-being of women members. Examples of reinvestment include a "goat program," in which a group of 13 goats were purchased with the intent of breeding. Offspring are distributed to co-op members, providing a source of milk and meat, breeding additional offspring, or sold for revenue.
Since the co-op's inception, Muungano has been able to establish four washing stations processing both washed and natural coffees, a new cupping lab, and have a trained roaster and cupper on staff. The fruits of their hard work are evident in the coffees they produce every year. Flavors of dried apricot can be found with a combination of spices, including cardamom, coriander, ginger, and nutmeg, that remind us of grains of paradise. A deep cola sweetness complements a bright acidity and syrupy mouthfeel.
SHOLI COOPERATIVE: SHOLI NATURAL: Nutmeg | Raisin | Chocolate Malt
The Abateraninkunga ba Sholi ("Sholi") Cooperative, meaning "Mutual Assistance," is located in Muhanga, Rwanda. Established in 2008, the Cooperative's name speaks to its members working together to improve their coffee and the greater community. Sholi was born out of a women's association called "Kundwa," which means "love" in
Kinyarwanda. Today, nearly half of Sholi's members are women, including two of the five board members.
In 2016, Sholi received a grant to build community and regional health centers to serve members and residents. With the nearest large health facility over 18 km away on poor roads, the community center provides blood tests and treatment for malaria, parasites, respiratory infections, and basic first aid. Betty, the head nurse, and the other four staff members hope to run a nutrition and cooking program to combat early childhood malnutrition.
LOMA LA GLORIA NATURAL: Milk Chocolate | Black Cherry | Plum
A significant challenge the future of coffee production faces is the growing age of farmers across the globe. In Central America, the average coffee farmer is 58 years old. This beckons the question: when these farmers retire, who will grow coffee? Younger generations are moving towards different fields of employment, and the threat of coffee farms becoming abandoned is genuine. This does the work of young Anny Ruth Pimental all the more important and exciting.
Finca Loma La Gloria was established in the late nineties by Anny's father, Roberto Pimental. A trained civil engineer and practiced businessman, Roberto named the farm after his grandfather's estate. The farm is located in El Boquerón near San Salvador, on the Quezaltepec Volcano, and spans between 1200 - 1750 meters above sea level. Varieties grown on the farm include Pacamara and Bourbon, with some trees up to 60 years old. In 2001, Roberto completed the construction of a mill on the property. However, this mill's potential was never fully realized, as it was never put into operation. Instead, coffee cherries from the farm were sold to other local mills, meaning traceability to Finca Loma La Gloria was lost. This changed in 2012 when Anny took over operations at the farm. Anny's focus was on improving quality and creating traceability from the farm. The mill was operated, allowing the coffee cherries to be processed on-site.