A Better Cuppa with Empowered Women
Did you know that our field officers in Carlopolis, Brazil have discovered that the involvement of women in post-harvest processing of coffee significantly improves the quality of the product? Here is a story from South America, that celebrates pride, independence, economic and social empowerment, which is almost everything that eventually leads to a stable and economically productive society.
Olam began associating with the women of Norte Velho Paraná in Brazil in January, 2016. Our team in Brazil, in partnership with International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) and Emater, a government agency, organises an annual event with the 350 women who are involved in coffee-drying, provide agri-consulting to growers. IWCA offers the much-required counselling to bring about the shift in the cultural and social mind-sets. Olam has played a crucial role in sustaining this project. So far, we support 80 of the 350 women. Till date we have made 90 field visits promoting best practices in sustainability. In addition, we provide financial support for the soil and water analyses.
Before the project was implemented, there were plenty of issues faced by the local communities, many of which were social in nature. Coffee yields vary widely from year-to-year because of the biennial cycle, adversely impacting the farmer’s income. The excess rain during harvest negatively impacts the quality. New techniques can counter these, but not everyone is open to change. Moreover, women have vastly unequal decision-making power, control over household spending, and access to education, finance, land, and inputs, and therefore, traditionally, not considered as a part of the existing or potential workforce.
Our team in Brazil, in partnership with Emater, facilitated several meetings with the women’s group in 5 different cities in the country. Usually, women’s role in the coffee fields is in activities post-harvest, mainly drying the coffee. Since drying is a critical process that defines the quality of the coffee, therefore post-harvesting best-practices was chosen as an important area to be improved. An improvement in this would increase the quality of the coffee and its price.
The story of how Flor Do Café came into existence is serendipitous.
One of the men who would attend the training workshops could not make it to work that day. His wife came to work as a substitute. Since she did now want to come alone, she got her friend alongside. The trainers noticed how these two women were more attentive, made incessant notes. When they got back on the field to work, they implemented everything to the T. This got Emater curious, and they began holding women-only workshops. The women were more enthusiastic in following every instruction religiously, and ensured costs are under control, better than men. They were more concerned about their families, hence punctual and diligent. They were conscious about sustainability and ensured they are wearing the gear they are supposed to while in a factory or at the farm, hence reducing accidents and product contamination. Soon 2 women in 2013 became 350 in a matter of 4 years. Last month all 350 women were asked to suggest a name and a logo for the organisation. They now call it Flor Do Café. The logo depicts a coffee flower.