It’s International Women’s Day on Thursday 8th March. What better time to celebrate the fantastic achievements of the women behind the Cafe Femenino project in Peru? At a time when business gets a generally bad press, this is a great example of how an enlightened approach can transform the lives of some of the poorest and most remote people on the planet.
It all started in 2004 when The Organic Products Trading Company (OPTCO) helped 464 Peruvian women, who are Fairtrade coffee producers, to launch Cafe Femenino, both as a coffee product and as a social programme. In 2009, D.R. Wakefield & Co Ltd partnered OPTCO to supply green coffee beans into the UK and Europe starting with Peru and Bolivia.
Women coffee producers comprise 30% of the 25 million coffee farmers who, between them, grow 75% of the world’s coffee. Coffee is a cash crop. Cash crops are traditionally managed by the men. This can breed gender inequality which can inflict poverty, abuse and fear. In some situations, they have no rights, no income of their own and are often left abandoned by their husbands.
When Gay Smith of OPTCO first met the Peruvian women coffee producers she was struck by their timid behaviour.
“As the women spoke they hung their heads or hid their faces when speaking. They seemed fearful and unsure of themselves. But in their eyes, I could see hope. Many of the women had their children with them for there was no one who helped them with their care.”
12 months later Gay visited them again and the difference was extraordinary.
“In the second year of the meeting, one of the glaring differences was the absence of their children. I asked them where their children were, and their response was quite simply amazing. They told me their children were home and their husbands were taking care of them, as they were attending a business meeting! I knew this was huge progress in just one year by gaining the support of their husbands.”
It may seem hard to believe but friendships with other women never existed before Café Femenino. Now they hold at least 150 meetings a year where they learn about leadership, organisation and finance. This, in turn has led to small animal breeding programs, seed programs, micro lending funds, embroidery classes, building of new stoves and many other projects that are helping them and their families. More girls are attending schools and husbands are sharing in childcare and household chores.
The women have started roasting their own Café Femenino coffee for their local markets to create yet another income stream.
To learn more about the project visit www.cafefemenino.com.
You can buy Cafe Femenino coffee from the following coffee suppliers :
Select Origin AB : www.selectorigin.se
Copa Con Oro: www.copaconoro.no
Black Cat Kaffee : www.black-cat.no
Stavanger : www.kaffebrenneriet.com
Mils Kompagniet :N/A
Café Eternity : www.cafeeternity.cz
Mocha Beans : www.mochabeans.com
Seccoto : N/A
The Coffee Warehouse Ltd : www.coffeewarehouse.ie
Galway Roast : www.thegalwayroast.com
Budget Bulk T/A IDorganics : www.idorganics.com