Leveling the Field for Women in Coffee

Women make up 43 percent of the world’s agricultural labor force on average, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. It makes sense, then, that if we want to make sustainable agriculture the norm, we have to do all we can to ensure gender equity on farms and agriculture-related businesses.

As part of that effort, we recently brought together partner organizations for a weeklong workshop in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in which 26 participants learned ways to identify gender gaps in coffee supply chains. At the end of the week, participants went into the field to practice using the tools they had learned.

Workshop participants in Honduras

The workshop attendees, ranging from grower association representatives to non-profit leaders, became acquainted with five tools presented by AgroProFoc, a Dutch organization that specializes in strengthening gender equity and sustainability in supply chains. This workshop, whose participants hailed from Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, was the last of a series; workshops on tea in Malawi, coffee and tea in Uganda, and cocoa in Indonesia were held earlier this year as part of the Rainforest Alliance’s UTZ Sector Partnership.

Here are the five tools participants learned:

1. Mapping the value chain through a gender lens

Generally, women's work—whether domestic or in the field—happens behind the scenes, and it’s often not remunerated. The goal of this activity is to make visible the work of women in the coffee supply chain.

2. Gender relations at home

For this exercise, participants list responsibilities of men and women in the home, as well as the household resources. Then they analyze the differences in contributions and benefits.

3. Gender scan for service providers

Service providers—meaning anyone from a rural finance institution to the mills that dry coffee beans—answer questions to perform a self-assessment. The answers, along with a numerical value, are represented in a graph that can be compared over the years as a way of planning and tracking improvements.

Participants of a workshop in Honduras

4. Analysis of services through drawings

This exercise, which uses drawings to note the respective activities of men and women, offers a way for low-literacy communities to participate in gender exercises. Later in the activity, participants share their drawings and compare them, discussing similarities and possible reasons behind any differences in their impressions of the work men and women do.

5. Interviews for employers

The last tool poses questions that aim to uncover both negative and positive working conditions for women within a given organization. As an alternative, focus groups with men and women employees can provide information for cross-referencing to help establish gaps that need to be addressed.

The objective of all the tools is to provide ways to identify and address gender inequities in the coffee supply chain—a critical part of creating a better world for people and nature.

Ramon nut, a sustainable superfood - photo by Sergio Izquierdo

How will we feed the 9.8 billion people who will share Earth in 2050?