Women and the coffee industry

Women and the coffee industry

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  The coffee industry

How much time do you spend thinking about where your coffee comes from? And no, we don’t mean Indigo Valley or the supermarket! Some of us have certainly made a conscious decision to buy ethically sourced coffee such as Fairtrade; or perhaps we have travelled far enough down the road of the discerning coffee drinker to discover that we prefer a Brazilian brew to a Colombian cuppa. But take it a step further: what about the individual people right at the other end of the supply chain – the people picking the individual coffee beans, one by one, from the tree?

Here at Indigo Valley we have made it a little easier for you to trace your beans by providing buyer profiles with most of our coffees. This time we’d particularly like to draw your attention to Coffee of Angels, a coffee exclusively grown by women whose profits go directly to those women.

In the UK, the issues of unequal pay or the proportion of women holding the top FTSE 100 jobs periodically hit the news. However, whilst we debate whether or not the top sportswomen or Hollywood actresses should receive the same pay cheque as the men, there are women on the other side of the world whose plight certainly doesn’t command the same number of column inches but whose inability to access earnings is quite literally a matter of life and death. We are lucky to live in a country where women have equal rights to pretty much anything they wish, but imagine if women in this country weren’t allowed to  open a bank account, set up a business or buy some land on which to build a house for their family?

A recent report by the Fairtrade Foundation found this to be exactly the case amongst women farmers in developing countries, where around 40% of the agricultural labour force is female. The issue is magnified in the coffee industry where, in Africa for example, 75% of the coffee farming workforce are female. Whilst women make up a significant proportion of the labour, the same isn’t true when it comes to productivity or earnings. Women rarely have rights to their earnings or property, making them vulnerable to male relatives who decide how to spend the money or indeed whether to sell their land. Other barriers to productivity include:

  •         Producer organisation rules, structures and practices which are often biased in favour of men.
  •         Sociocultural factors, such as the role of women in society.
  •         Women’s individual circumstances – such as age, marital status, education etc.

Thankfully, some of the “big hitters” of the development world are on the case; gender equality and the empowerment of women was agreed as a Millennium Development Goal by the UN in 2000. Closing the gender gap in agriculture would bring far reaching benefits. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, closing the global gender gap would increase yields between 20-30% which would reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12-17%. But what can we, as individuals, do to help? A recent World Bank report put it this way: “It is clear that we ignore this gender gap at our peril and ultimately at great cost.” If you want to do your bit, make sure you buy coffee with a certification such as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance or Good Inside, who guarantee equal pay for men and women.








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