I bet you didn’t know that about 70% of the harvesting and maintenance done on coffee farms in Africa are done by women, however rarely do the women own or have financial control over said land. The International Women’s Coffee Alliance has vowed to change that, and is working to give them access to training and networking and have the ability to develop new trade relations.
NPR sat down recently with four women who are at the forefront of change for women in the coffee industry while they were on a trip to Washington, D.C. : Angele Ciza of Burundi, Fatima Aziz Faraji of Tanzania, Immy Kamarade of Rwanda, and Mbula Musau of Kenya.
Angele owns the land she farms on, 24.7 acres, which has about 26,000 Arabica producing trees, and has purchased 7 coffee washing stations. She employs around 100 women, and she also helps those women pay their children’s school fees. Bravo Angele, bravo. She says “We work very, very hard. If you want to develop Burundi, you develop the women.”
Fatima manages a family coffee farm called Finca Estate. She has been doing her part of strengthening the voice of women in coffee by filling the seats on coffee oversight boards with women that have usually been held by only men. She is also a co-director of the Tanzania Coffee Research Institute. Fatima says “The ones [women] who are doing well can help. Some women are resistant because of their culture.” These women, she further explains, are not used to having financial control. However, the women working with the IWCA are helping eachother, like sisters.
Immy Kamarade began her mission stemming from the desire to spend more time with her children. She left her job in the medical profession and established a co op of 100 women who are growing and processing coffee in Rwanda. She says she’s working harder than ever now, but it’s more on her own terms. She adds “It’s a new day for Rwanda.”
Mbula is a certified Q-grader, an esteemed title in the coffee world. Buyers know a coffee that’s been graded by a Q-grader is on point. She has also been on the judging panel at the World Barista Championship. She considers herself a “sister of coffee” and now works on the trade and marketing side of the industry – helping empower women throughout the coffee industry by connecting them with women around the world.
These women are certainly an inspiration, and we wish them the best on their endeavors. We hope to hear more of their stories soon.