On this International Women’s Day 2022, Montville Coffee wants to recognise the work done by women to make our business great. Here in Australia we value the role women play in every part of our supply chain. Locally, we work hard to make sure women are given the opportunities they deserve but this can be harder to achieve with our producers overseas. 

So, we partner with Fairtrade because we know that they have systems in place to encourage female participation, decision making and empowerment in developing countries. As well as making sure the women farmers get paid fairly and are given a voice, they have specialised programs to encourage leadership by women. 

Small ideas can lead to big changes – and that’s exactly how Fairtrade’s Growing Women in Coffee project was born. 

In 2012, Samson Koskei, the chairman of the Kabng'etuny cooperative in the highlands west of the Kenyan Rift Valley in Kenya, gifted his wife some of their farm’s coffee bushes. Ownership of these plants meant that she was able to join the cooperative and, for the first time, earn her own income. 

Samson had, with this small act, highlighted a massive problem in Kenya. In his country, women do on average 70 percent of farm labour but receive very little reward, especially in coffee growing communities. Historically, a women on a Kenyan coffee plantation would work first on her father’s farm (both tending coffee bushes and doing household work) and then on her husband's farm once married.  She would work often 12 hours a day and has no time of her own and no property or money of her own. 

So, it was an ambitious project that Fairtrade launched in 2013 trying to encourage more male farmers to follow Koskei’s lead.  The Growing Women in Coffee project asked husbands to transfer coffee bush ownership to their wives. Soon the new women’s cooperative had 300 female members, with another 150 joining the neighbouring Kapkiyai cooperative. 

These women farmers received training on good agricultural practices, and have increased the yield and quality of their coffee as a result. They also have benefitted from the construction of ‘green energy’ biogas cook stoves for their homes, reducing exposure to smoke and the time they spend collecting firewood. In 2018 they launched their own women’s label coffee: Zawadi Coffee. 

The minimum number of bushes to be gifted is still set at 50, as men own an average 300-400 each. But the project has been a phenomenal success and there are now more than 500 smallholder women coffee farmers who own an average of 250 coffee bushes each, according to the latest Fairtrade reports.  Incredibly, more than 70 percent of the coffee produced is now of premium quality, up from 25 percent when the project began.   

Dorcas Jeptanui, Fairtrade coffee farmer and chairlady of the Growing Women in Coffee Project  explains the difference that Fairtrade has made.

“Since we have joined Fairtrade, we have seen our women so empowered […] the Fairtrade standards stand for fairness in coffee trade and environmental conservation also, and workers’ rights […] we joined Fairtrade so that our workers and members have that.” 

“If a woman is empowered, then the house will also be empowered, economically and socially” says Elizabeth, member of Kabngetuny coffee cooperative.  

See, when women are empowered, the whole society benefits – less poverty, more food, more education. These are the cornerstone for why we choose Fairtrade and essential elements to a fairer world. A world we want to be part of. Thank you for helping make this future a reality. 

February 28, 2022 — Lauren Scaroni