Balance for Better

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter. It is a call to action to drive gender equity across the world. We need a balance of masculine and feminine in the world for it to function well. In order to achieve a greater equilibrium, we need to celebrate the achievements of women, alongside men, and continue to raise awareness of gender biases.

The coffee industry remains male dominated, especially in origin countries, but there is a greater drive towards equality across the entire industry, and a larger number of inspiring female roasters and baristas are taking the spotlight than ever before. At Falcon, women make up 46% of our workforce. In celebration of International Women’s Day, we have decided to feature 3 female-led initiatives we have the privilege of partnering with at origin.

Joy from Ishema Women’s Washing Station, Rwanda

Joy Tushabe is the owner of Ishema Coffee Washing Station in Rwanda’s Eastern Province. The washing station was started in 2014 when Joy sought to address the imbalance in Rwandan coffee value chains, despite women doing a lot of the physical labour prior to and during processing.

Joy believes that when women are empowered, they can improve their livelihoods. Traditionally, coffee farms and washing stations in Rwanda have been owned and managed by men, and the income created from the processing and the marketing of the coffee predominantly ends up with them. There are 60 women employed at Ishema washing station and the coffee is grown, processed and marketed entirely by women. These women are earning their own income, meaning they are no longer financially dependent on their husbands. Joy has used the premiums paid by her primary buyers to build a career skills center for undereducated women in her rural community.

Our ongoing work with Joy, via our partners in Rwanda — Rwanda Trading Company — has meant that Ishema continues to grow and expand. With market access to the US and Europe, Ishema’s volume has doubled since 2014. The washing station has become a safe space for women to learn from each other and become empowered enough to challenge the traditional gender bias of coffee production in Rwanda.

Joy Tushabe

Red de Mujeres, Guatemala

The Red de Mujeres, or ‘network of women’, is a large group of female coffee producers across five different areas of the municipality of Huehuetenango in western Guatemala. Within the community of 830 women, there are 8 different Mayan languages spoken, indicative of the diversity of culture in this area of the country.

All of these women were either widowed during the civil war between 1960 and 1996 or were left behind when their husbands fled the country during the coffee crisis between 2001 and 2004. Because Huehuetenango was one of the areas hardest hit by the crisis, many people decided to give up coffee altogether and find work elsewhere, leaving their families behind.

With the help of coffee organisation ACODIHUE, these female producers have been united to market their coffee and find international buyers. ACODIHUE has also supported them with training in organic farming methods, from producing and applying fertilizers, to rust and pest control methods. Falcon has started working with ACODIHUE to improve the quality of production even further, starting with Red de Mujeres.

Members of Red de Mujeres

Karoline and Sandra from AMECAFE, Brazil

 Karoline Maria Ferreira has been involved in coffee from a young age. Both her parents were workers on large farms in the Mantiqueira region of Brazil. She initially followed in the same line of work but after she got married, Karoline and her husband, Ademir, decided to rent a small farm that was already producing coffee. Karoline’s sister helped them rent the land and supported their coffee growing endeavours. They have collectively worked hard to improve the quality of their crop and produce specialty grade coffee as well as working with organic practices.

We first met Sandra María Momoeda in 2017. Sadly, Sandra suffered a fire that decimated over 50% of her crop in the same year, which hugely affected her financial stability. She has shown incredible strength in the face of such adversity and we are thrilled to still be working with her. Sandra’s passion is a life in coffee and she has been determined to continue to produce beautiful coffees.

Karoline and Sandra are part of the AMECAFE Women’s producer group, which has now been established for a second harvest, first coming together in 2017. The group is made up of 50 members who meet on a monthly basis to share knowledge and educate each other about coffee production. They want to empower each other and their families by improving the quality of their lives through coffee.

Sandra Momoeda, centre right, and Karoline Ferreira, far right