Women play a huge role in coffee. From cultivating and harvesting, to buying and roasting, and every step along the way. As International Women’s Day approaches, we honor three women who are changing the game in coffee.
Gender equity intersects with every issue at coffee’s origin, including climate change, food security, finance and farming. That’s why we recently signed on to support the Gender Equity Index, an effort to embed gender equity into training and service programs to help women develop a stronger position.
By bringing together coffee farmers, cooperatives, traders and roasters, we believe we can be part of the solution. Join us as we get to know three women paving the way to a better future in coffee.
Setting the Stage for Success: Kimberly Easson
Kimberly Easson has worked to improve the lives of farmers and their families for over 20 years. Her latest project, the Partnership for Gender Equity brings people together to ensure that the work of every person is recognized and valued.
“There has been a feminization in agriculture as civil conflicts or migration oblige women to take on an even greater role in the family economy,” Kimberly says. “It’s critical to acknowledge their role in the coffee community.”
The International Coffee Organization estimates that women provide 70 percent of the labor in coffee, but own just 20 to 30 percent of the farms. This lack of access and the lack of recognition for women’s contributions led Easson to create the Partnership for Gender Equity. When women have a stronger voice and can reap the full benefits of their work, entire communities fare better.
“A gap in equity can exacerbate the impact of crises, whether it’s a pandemic or a natural disaster. Equitable communities are more resilient because they draw on the talents and abilities of every person,” Kimberly says.
Leading by Example: Fatima Ismael
In November 2020, two hurricanes ran roughshod over Central America at the same time that many were dealing with outbreaks of COVID-19. Fatima Ismael was at the center of it as the general manager of SOPPEXCCA, a 650-member cooperative in Nicaragua.
“We were in the middle of the hurricane, while also trying to implement sanitary protocols to protect our people,” Fatima says.
The logistics of coffee production are challenging enough, but the combination of hurricanes and a pandemic were unprecedented. Ismael estimates that their members lost up to 50 percent of their food crops and saw acres of coffee destroyed.
In this sea of disruption, Fatima maintains an air of calm. After the hurricanes had passed, she and her team worked to bring much-needed funds into their communities to rebuild, replant, and keep families fed and safe.
This is what Fatima has done throughout her career. She leads methodically, sorting through the priorities to consider the needs of all. A key focus of her work is gender equity, where she leads by example. As a community leader, Fatima helps young people and women find their voice.
“I tell all young people, young women especially, that the hard work is always worth it. And they see it, women in our community are empowered and we’re in a place where they have a voice,” Fatima says. “They’re in a position to promote a sustainable future for coffee, small farmers and the land we live on.”
Purchasing with Purpose: Jess Brooks
Jess Brooks, Coffee Buyer & Supply Chain Manager at Allegro, has worked with Fatima and the farmers of SOPPEXCCA for years. That’s why it was a no-brainer to donate funds directly to the cooperative in the aftermath of the hurricane.
“Fatima reached out and we were ready to support them,” Jess says. “We have a long-term commitment to the co-op and what they’re trying to achieve.”
Jess builds relationships in coffee communities around the globe. This allows Allegro to not simply buy from farmers, but work with them to improve their quality of life. She sees gender equity as an integral part of that goal.
“Gender equity is ingrained in our organization, it’s just part of what we do,” Jess says. “We have women in many senior roles and our sourcing team is primarily female. We extend that perspective to how we source.”
Jess considers a wide variety of criteria in her purchasing decisions beyond just coffee quality. By looking at representation and gender equity, she gains an insight into how coffee purchases can have an impact on the entire community. According to the FAO, women tend to put most of their income toward household needs, including food, education, healthcare, and home improvements.
“Fatima is an example of the effect that gender equity can have. When you see someone like yourself at the highest level of governance, that confidence passes onto individual farmers,” Jess says.
At Allegro, we believe every person can contribute to a better world, every day, and you can too. Pick up a bag of Organic Café la Dueña coffee, a medium roast blend from 100% women-owned farms in Latin America.