This guest blog post comes to us from Christy Thorns, Director of Sourcing and Quality Control for Allegro Coffee . Christy works to empower women in coffee and transform the lives of coffee growers worldwide. Read on to learn more about how your Fair Trade purchase can impact the lives of thousands of women.
For me the story of women coffee farmers is a compelling one. In many regions of the world there continues to be gender inequalities that limit the possibilities of women to own their own land or businesses. However, even if they do not have their own farms, women play a huge role in coffee production and typically do not receive the recognition or financial rewards for their contribution. Over the years we have looked for chances to tell these stories better, and so I thought it would be cool to add a blend to our Allegro  line-up that represented the cooperative spirit of women around the world, showcasing the quality of the coffees they produce.
Coffee from the Hands of Women
Promoting woman-grown coffee started with the 21st of September, a Fair Trade co-op in Oaxaca Mexico: In 2008 we bought a coffee lot from their 400 member women’s group. They proposed the idea of separating women’s lots from the men’s as a way to garner a higher premium and provide an opportunity for a higher level of participation in the co-op by the female members, many of whom were taking care of their children alone while their husbands were working in the United States. After having their lots separated and bulked into full container volumes for a couple of years, we noticed that these women’s lots consistently scored a couple points higher than the other co-op lots that we bought. This outcome tied back nicely to the idea that women are generally better care givers, and this carries over to the added attention they pay to the horticulture, harvesting and processing of coffee.
The Birth of Café La Dueña
After the success of women’s lots from the 21st, I wanted to support a similar program with the Fair Trade Aprocassi  co-op in Peru. Their CODEMU Women’s Group  was officially founded in 2009 and has 72 members. We quickly noticed the same results when it came to cupping scores with the women’s lots versus the regular co-op lots. For a couple of years were able to sell these special lots as limited edition coffees, but I wanted to have a women’s co-op coffee year round, so this year we introduced Café La Dueña .
With Café La Dueña, a Fair Trade Organic blend, we will be able to rotate through a selection from the 21st and Aprocassi women’s groups initially. We will add coffee from Soppexcca co-op’s 200-member strong Las Hermanas group in Nicaragua once new crop arrives this year. All three of these women’s groups have been encouraged and assisted over the years by Sustainable Harvest ‘s wonderfully dedicated staff members in Latin America.
Spread the Word, Spread the Idea
I would eventually like to expand the Café La Dueña idea to include women’s coffees from small-holder co-ops in other parts of the world. The UN’s depressing statistics on women in agriculture (The State of Food and Agriculture 2010-11) illustrates the challenges women continue face in coffee specifically and it inspires me as a female coffee buyer to seek out and support gender equality opportunities for more women at origin.
The more women we can support now in leadership roles in coffee countries the better, whether they be farm owners, co-op mangers, or coffee cuppers. We also have to find ways to give women more direct access to the market. Based on quality of the coffee from our La Dueña growers, promoting their coffee is not only better for their economic growth, it is better for our coffee drinkers.
Thanks to Fair Trade USA for highlighting Women in Coffee for Mother’s Day !
Christy Thorns, Director of Sourcing and Quality Control for Allegro Coffee