Asproguate was founded in 2014 by 100 organic coffee growers in the Acatenango, Coban, and Chimaltenango regions. The members of Asproguate set out with the express purpose of showing that growing coffee organically is not only better for the environment, but is more economically sustainable and leads to higher incomes. Nearly all of Asproguate's members are of indigenous Kaqchikel and Tz'utujil ethnicity and 95% of members are organic certified producers.
The women of Atitlan Fuerza de Mujer come from two villages in the municipality of San Juan la Laguna. The coffee is grown in high, cloudy forests in an area that is a part of the Atitlan watershed fed by the tributary of Lago de Atitlán.
In addition to their work as coffee growers, these women are also textile makers, weaving fabrics and patterns traditional to the region. Sales of these fabrics help to maintain their coffee farms and provide additional income for their families.
The women from Atitlan work closely with their peers in Acatenango and San Martín Jilotepeque who are also a part of Asproguate’s Fuerza de Mujer program. The program aims to empower women with training in leadership, finance, health, and nutrition, in addition to the organic and environmental training programs offered by Asproguate. The association also supports the children of the producers with a student scholarship called "Educating with Coffee." This scholarship has been vital in allowing these students to continue their education virtually during the pandemic. Monthly deliveries of food have been made to the most vulnerable and in need during the pandemic, including low-income families, the sick, elderly, and disabled.
Rebuild Women’s Hope (RWH) is a cooperative led by women coffee farmers located on the large, remote island of Idjwi in Lake Kivu in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their mission is to produce specialty quality coffee whilst empowering women and raising the standard of living of their members. For generations, farmers on Idjwi have largely depended on the coffee they grow. But before RWH was founded they had no way of processing their coffee to a high standard and nowhere to sell it apart from to smugglers, who took it across the lake to nearby Rwanda.
While women in Congo do much of the labor involved in growing and harvesting coffee on their family farms, traditionally it is their husbands who are in charge when it comes to selling the produce and making business decisions. The contribution of women is largely not recognized in society and women are widely seen as being incapable of dignified work that contributes to the needs of their families and communities.
In 2013, Marcelline Budza founded RWH. Inspired by her own mother’s resilience while bringing up her four daughters alone, she set out to find practical ways to transform the lives of Congolese women in rural communities. At RWH, women are at the center of decision-making. The co-op works to create a spirit of entrepreneurship and self-management among the members in order to raise the standard of living in their communities. RWH believes that a community where women are empowered is a thriving community.
The cooperative Campesinos Ecológicos de la Sierra Madre de Chiapas (CESMACH) was founded in 1994. CESMACH’s long-term success is rooted in their guiding principles which aim to strike a balance between developing social programs and building a competitive business. These principles are:
Reserva El Triunfo - Café de Mujer was formed by 18 women coffee producers from Angel Albino Corzo, Montecristo de Gro., Capitan Luis A. Vidal, La Concordia and Siltepec. The program has expanded and now includes over 30 communities across the Sierra Madres. The coffee is grown between 1,200 and 1,700 meters and is comprised of Typica and Bourbon. After being washed, the coffee is dried for 7 to 12 days. The women own the land where their coffee is grown, which has been specifically set aside for the women's program, and have obtained both organic and fair trade certification.
In 2009, 85 women coffee farmers started the Gashonga cooperative to pool their resources and become stronger together. The cooperative struggled in its early months, as it suffered from poor management and was unable to find market access. However, the cooperative persevered and grew stronger, thanks in part to trainings from the nonprofit Sustainable Growers. These trainings taught farmers about best agricultural practices to improve quality and volume. The trainings also stressed to the farmers the importance of working together as a team to improve the cooperative's collective future.
Today the cooperative is fair trade certified, has grown to 104 members, and has successfully increased its income from coffee. With these increased profits, Gashonga has invested in initiatives such as education for its members and agronomic inputs to strengthen its coffee plants. They have also been able to acquire animals such as cows and goats, with which they have been able to make their own organic fertilizer. Additionally, Gashonga's members have been able to acquire health insurance, improving their security and safety.
Gashonga has been recognized on the international stage for their quality. In 2015, they placed seventh in the Rwanda Cup of Excellence with a score of 86.7. When asked what coffee has meant to them, Gashonga's members say it has given them a professional focus, as they realize that as they increase the quality and productivity of their coffee, they can improve their livelihoods. Gashonga's members sum up coffee's effect on their lives this way: "We feel proud, valuable, motivated, loved, connected, improved, and strengthened. Knowing that we have produced something valuable, we are dignified too. And of course knowing that [the buyer] has enjoyed the coffee, we know they will come back again and again expecting even better than what they had before."
Mujeres Tolima was founded in 2013 as the women's organization of Asociacion de Productores Agropecuarios de Cafe Especial de Planadas (ASOPEP). The organization works in the villages of Montalvo, Rubí, La Esmeralda, San Joaquín, Jesus Maria Oviedo, and La Primavera in Tolima, Colombia.
The organization is characterized by its fantastic washed processed coffees and their incredible team led by women, each one specialized in different areas. The coffees are shade grown at around 1550 to 2120 meters above sea level. The most used varieties by these producers are F8, Caturra, Colombia, and varietals such as Geisha, and Pink and Yellow Bourbon. Mujeres Tolima is made up of 20 women who work together to farm 91 hectares of land for an annual production of 165 tons of coffee.
The producers are also part of ASOPEP Women's Committee, which seeks to facilitate training and needed support for their coffee-growing communities.
Sumac Warmi, which means beautiful women in the local language, Quechua, is a cooperative made up of 32 women in Peru. Their coffee plants are cultivated on a microlot under the shade of fruit and forest trees, allowing the natural environment to be preserved. It is both organic and fair trade certified.
Sumac Warmi is committed to both producing the finest coffee and ensuring their members are provided for. Expert agronomists train members in agronomic best practices, pest control, soil analysis, fertilization, certification compliance, harvesting, and post-harvest processing. They also help members maintain food security by raising small animals and maintaining vegetable gardens.
Longer term, Sumac Warmi's vision is to become a leader in Peruvian coffee production, and this is where their commitment to quality comes into play. Armed with learnings from their agronomic team, Sumac Warmi producers hand pick only the ripest cherries, and immediately de-pulp and ferment them for 15-30 hours. They are then dried individually by producers on covered raised beds for 10-18 days until the coffee reaches optimal humidity in the 10.5-12% range. It is then delivered to Sumac Warmi's warehouse, which has been carefully designed to preserve quality until the coffee is transported to the regional dry mill and exported.
Coordinadora de Mujeres Campesinas de La Paz (COMUCAP), which means Organizer of the Rural Women of La Paz, is a cooperative located in southwest Honduras. It was founded in 1993 by women seeking economic independence to support their families.
Before COMUCAP was founded men were the landowners in the region and made most of the business and production decisions. The women struggled to succeed economically and socially under this inequality, so they decided to take action to free themselves from their economic dependence on their fathers and husbands. This initiative led women in La Paz to organize and create COMUCAP.
One of COMUCAP's founders began a radio program for women called Siempre Vivas. Her audience consisted of many women who didn't own land and were often victims of domestic violence. These women realized that the root of the problem was economic insecurity and began to look for ways to earn money for themselves and their families.
Banding together, the women of COMUCAP purchased approximately one hectare of land and planted coffee. Through hard work and perseverance the cooperative has grown their farmland from that single hectare to 37 hectares. COMUCAP also has a wet mill, drying patios, and a compost production plant that have helped foster coffee quality.
Thanks to the success of the association, many of the women have been able to purchase their own land, achieving economic stability and freedom. The co-op now sells coffee, aloe vera products, wine, and honey, and also manages an ecotourism center, all of which provide sources of diversified income.
With the support of several NGOs, COMUCAP has trained its members in nutrition and food security and has developed family and school orchards. These orchards were created from small areas of land where the members reuse old tires and kitchen pots to extend the viable surface for plantings. Currently 40 percent of the members work at one of the orchards, which generate additional income for the farmers, as they sell the produce they don’t consume.
The members of COMUCAP have allocated part of their Fair Trade premium to create Caja Rural, which is a cash fund that offers one-year micro-credit loans to members for small expenses and investments. The program is also supported by NGO funds. It has had a major impact on the members; for example, it has helped farmers buy necessary school supplies for their children during the start of the school year.
COMUCAP’s coffee is among the best in Honduras, and its creation has impacted more than 500 rural families.
The Cooperativa de Caficultores y Agricultores de la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Cooagronevada) is a small co-op, initially of 21 families, incorporated in 2007. The co-op was established to bring community unity, support, strength, and economic security. It continues to offer support and resources and has developed a sustainable way to support its members by securing training and education in the cultivation of organic coffee, cocoa and beekeeping. Today Cooagronevada is both fair trade and organic certified.
Cooagronevada believes not just in advancing women’s empowerment but also in environmental sustainability. “We are not motivated by profits, but by the reduction of our ecological impact while at the same time increasing our impact on the lives of the families of the coffee producers which make up our group.”
The women’s program is one of Cooagronevada’s flagship initiatives. Sales of women’s coffees go directly to further increasing the incomes of Cooagronevada’s women producers. For this special lot, the women carry out the harvest during the light of the full moon, a tradition that has survived generations, taking care to reserve only the ripest cherries for this selection. After fermenting for 12 hours, the cherries are meticulously washed. The women specifically leave just a little bit of mucilage clinging to the seeds, resulting in a profile similar to a honey process, but retaining full clarity and brightnessin the cup. Coffee beans are then slowly and evenly dried over the course of 28 days. The resulting coffees are remarkably complex but balanced.
In Guatemala coffee has long been a male-dominated industry and gender equality remains a challenge. It is still unfortunately very difficult for women in Guatemala to compete and thrive in the coffee world. La Morena is an organization that is working to change this by showcasing the work of women producers.
Cafecita specifically partners with the producers in Huehuetenango, one of the better known regions of Guatemala. One of Guatemala‘s three non-volcanic regions, Huehuetenango is also the highest and driest one, making it one of the best to grow coffee. The communities in the region depend heavily on the coffee industry for their livelihoods.
Produced exclusively by female farmers, La Morena is a certified Volcafe Way coffee. Since joining the Volcafe Way program, the producers have increased the quality of their coffee, increased their yields, and, as a consequence, started earning more. In teaching them best practices, their farms are turning out excellent coffee and becoming viable businesses.
La Morena also works with Wakami, a local foundation dedicated to the empowerment of women through the creation of small business models that contribute to the sale of Guatemalan handcraft products. By providing women artisans with skill training and income opportunities, they are able to help transform cycles of poverty into cycles of prosperity.