Louise Whitaker; Group Support Manager, Bewley’s UK
Visit to the SOPPEXCCA
Cooperative in Nicaragua and Unlocking the power of Women in Coffee.
Louise began her presentation by stating that over 125
million people in 70 countries worldwide rely on coffee as the main cash crop.
However, the coffee plant does not like quick changes in growing conditions and
is largely intolerant of progressive temperature increases. Coffee is also very
labour intensive and prone to pests and fungal diseases. Coffee seedlings take
4 to 5 years to produce in nurseries before any coffee cherries grow on the
bush. The first crop is discarded before the best cherries mature. When ripe,
the cherries are hand-picked, sorted, and then de-pulped to obtain the two
green coffee beans in each cherry. The green coffee beans are then place in the
sun to dry for 3 – 7 days and turned
Women provide much of the labour in what are often
male-dominated societies, as well as looking after the children, cooking,
collecting water, shopping, or running small businesses in local markets
Louise referred to a newly published ICO document examining
gender equality and climate change.
When women have access to finance, credit, training, and are
involved in the decision making processes of the cooperative, women tend to
save more money than men as well as direct more of that finance to providing
for the family.
Members of the SOPPEXCCA Cooperative pay to be part of the
Fairtrade auditing scheme to have the certification logo on their coffee and
cocoa products. Fairtrade membership entitlements include:-
- Gender equality
- Equal pay for men and women
- One member one vote on business and community
- Access to credit – (a holistic approach is
- Women managers and leaders act as “role models”
in the cooperative expanding the narrative
- Money provides for school bags, paper,
pens, and child uniforms even though
state education is free
- Children can then aspire to colleges and
universities for professional training
- With credit, women can start their own coffee or
e.g. women collect organic honey from bees
and combine this with home grown maize to produce energy bars, which are sold
locally in markets, shops and even exported
- This in turn provides access to more credit e.g.
$10,000 for marketing of biscuits and energy bars. A wheel begins to role and
gather pace, so creating a new mini-enterprise
There is a clear role for women
in businesses as well as community, empowering and enhancing their status,
closing the gender gap. Women work hard in the production of coffee but can
create quite innovative enterprises which diversify the economy based on local
conditions and advantages. Women understand the relationship of their work with
the land and the environment and can help fight climate change.
During her 2018 visit to SOPPEXCCA
Cooperative, Louise met a number of women with interesting stories to tell
about improving their economic opportunities
as well social and community benefits, once they have access to credit,
they become entrepreneurs and role models. Money has also come from Melissa
Gates and the Hilary Clinton Foundations.
Greta: 90% of her income was directed to her family, improving
diet, health and education opportunities. She works in alignment with the UN
Sustainable Development Goals. Farmers would lose money if their coffee were
not sold under Fairtrade terms. Being involved in both business and community
decision making means inclusion and empowerment for women in SOPPEXCCA. The
current General manager of the cooperative is Fatima Ismael, who is responsible
for over 800 individual coffee farmers.
Rosa: listed a number of advantages since she became a smallholder.
Land can now be registered in a woman’s name, and encourages economic diversity
and the setting up of micro-businesses apart from growing the cash crop –
coffee. Gender equality is established as well as young people can see the
improvements and realize that farming can offer a living wage and a future.
Maxima: Her coffee is sold under the Women’s coffee label –
“Sisters. The Fairtrade money earned is allocated to school equipment for her
children. With the low coffee prices, she has stated growing cocoa as a main
cash crop. Cocoa benefits include:-
- Stable higher income than coffee and is viewed
as a “buffer” crop
- Grows all the year round
- Provides more money out of the coffee harvest
- Has started to make her own chocolate bars
- Cocoa grows well at lower levels on land
formally used for coffee production
- She is seen as a role model for other female
- Mutual skill sharing and utilizing cross-product
Myrtle: She established a small cafe on
her coffee growing land and taught herself to become a barista
by studying at weekends.
Climate change has a human cost as well as an immediate
Notes Produced by:
Chairman, Wycombe Fairtrade