CelebratingWomen in Coffeein Peru

NOVEMBER 2018 UPDATE: As we strive for greater impact in our tea and coffee supply chains, we’re starting to see what can be achieved through collaborations with our partners across the industry around a common goal.

In 2015 we embarked on a three-year project with Twin Trading, Marks and Spencer, Matthew Algie, and two smallholder cooperatives to increase the resilience of our coffee growing communities in Peru. The partnership was focussed on a holistic approach to reduce the risks associated with climate change, bring greater gender equality in rural communities and inspire young people to build a prosperous future in the coffee industry.

The short film above demonstrates some of the small ways the project has made tangible and positive difference to the lives of those remarkable people, who work hard to create the products we can all be proud of.

Directly benefitting over 500 farmers and their families – and indirectly benefitting over 1000 more – the project has given women the training and skills needed to take on leadership roles, and has seen more young people engaged and excited about working in coffee. It has also helped to improve coffee yields and quality for famers.

Our Sustainable Sourcing Manager, Dr Krisztina Szalai, said: “Working together on a project that involved the whole supply chain has been a truly rewarding process – addressing some of the most fundamental sustainability challenges of our time requires collaboration at a level that reaches beyond individual supply chains.

“The success of this project is a testament to how industry-level collaboration can accelerate change and scale impact. What we have created with this project is a blueprint for change and a blueprint for collaboration that we hope to replicate in other regions as well in the future.”

You can read more about the background of the project in our original post below…

Around 25 million smallholder farmers produce 80% of the world’s coffee. And on these small, family run farms it is women who carry out most of the work – from caring for the plants to harvesting and sorting the crop.

Yet, in most countries that rely heavily on agriculture, more work does not equal more pay, rights or resources for women. In fact, women are rarely land-owners, they are not typically included in decision making at a business, community or even household level and often they cannot access the training and tools needed to improve their productivity.

For the last three years we’ve been working on a collaborative project with Twin Trading, Marks and Spencer and Matthew Algie to try and change these inequalities and bring greater gender justice and women’s leadership into the coffee industry in Peru.

The cooperative we’ve been working with is the Cooperativa Agraria Cafetalera Pangoa, based high in the Peruvian Andes. CAC Pangoa is unusual in itself for having a woman at the helm. Esperanza Dionisio Castillo was one of the first female students at Peru’s national agricultural university and became the co-op’s manager in the late 1990s. Under her leadership the co-operative has gone from strength to strength, establishing a women’s committee initially focused on microfinance schemes and promoting female leadership.

But getting women into positions where they can influence the future of the industry they rely on is much more complex than just making those opportunities available – it requires a change in mindset for both women and men in the cooperatives and the wider community.

This is where Gender Action Learning System (GALS) training comes in. GALS is a methodology focused on promoting women’s human rights, building relationships between women and men as equals, and helping to change gender inequalities in resources and power. Nearly 500 men and women have received this training as part of the programme. It encourages families to reflect on the set up of their households and for partners to create joint visions for how they want their lives to look in the future.

One exercise is to create a Gender Balance Tree, where participants use a tree outline to record the jobs carried out by women and those done by men to produce coffee, and the different ways that family income is spent and by whom. On either side of the trunk, they look at property and decision-making. It’s a tool which simply and visually brings to life the different aspects of male and female roles and the benefits that could be gained from a more equal partnership.


Thanks to the project, 40% of families are now using the tools from their training at home and noticing a positive difference in behaviors, roles and relationships.

Olestina Caso Bravo is one member of the Pangoa Coop who, with her husband, Oswaldo, has benefited from this training. Olestina and Oswaldo have worked on their farm since the 90s. They built the farm up from just one hectare of coffee and have had a tumultuous time – losing the whole plantation to coffee rust back in 2013 and having to start from scratch. Over the years, and with support from the project, they have managed to re-establish the farm and are now producing over four hectares of coffee. Two years ago, Olestina and her partner started working through the GALS training, making their own Gender Balance Tree and mapping out their joint vision for the future. Their vision includes a model farm – one to which their children, who are currently studying in the city, would be proud to return as the next generation of farmers.

They’re well on their way to their farm ambitions. Their smallholding currently includes a native forest area, a coffee plantation and a garden to grow vegetables and herbs. Their coffee productivity is improving and they’re diversifying their income by farming fish and raising guinea pigs.

When the coffee rust crisis hit, many families were broken – unable to find a way through the situation together. Having made it through this hardship, Olestina and Oswaldo have found strength in their partnership and with GALS their working relationship has also improved. Through the programme they’ve learned the value of communication and support among family members – something which Oswaldo has taken seriously in supporting his wife to join the board of Pangoa and to take her position as the first woman on their Supervisory Council.

Traditionally, women working in coffee at origin are rarely included as association leaders, farm managers, or owners. Even when women do obtain leadership positions, they often lack the training or self-esteem to be effective in their roles.

The project has set about to change this norm – actively opening doors and providing training for women to achieve leadership positions. As a result, nearly 100 members of Pangoa are now part of a women’s coffee committee. The committee produces its own coffee from which all the funds go directly back to the women and their families. 25 women are also now in leadership positions.

The benefits of getting women into these positions are far-reaching – research shows that when women bring income to their household they are more likely to spend it on the family’s health, nutrition and education. And organisations are more effective when women have increased leadership opportunities.


Two years ago, Olestina participated in lead farmer training and last year she was chosen to be a member of the board. At first, she felt the responsibilities would be too much, but with the help of Oswaldo, she has studied hard to understand what is needed of her to fulfil her role effectively. Now, Olestina is vice-president of the vigilance council of Pangoa Coop. and the only women on this council. Olestina takes the health of the cooperative as seriously as she does the running of her own farm.

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Written bySam Gibson

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