Farmers have it hard across the globe. We rely on them to sustain our livelihoods, but nevertheless they often struggle to sustain their own families. Coffee farmers are no exception. The mission behind Swelter Coffee is to focus on helping female farmers. Why? Because while many coffee farmers struggle, women coffee farmers tend to lack the same opportunities as their male counterparts. Women make up a large percent of the coffee-producing workforce, yet often don’t even earn a living wage. Many cultures in these regions are very male dominated, therefore women aren’t able to own the land they cultivate, get education, or receive financial support. The list goes on.
Studies have shown that women will contribute their earnings to sustain their families and communities at twice the rate of men. Investing in women not only helps promote gender equality, but has a greater impact on community wellbeing. Also, if women had access to resources that would help them increase their production on the land they have – with their coffee crops, or other crops (to feed their family, for example) – the need for deforestation would go down, improving our planet’s ability to combat climate change.
I hope to build relationships with coffee producers, to better understand their stories and their challenges. Then together, through our grower/roaster partnership, we can determine how to best approach those challenges. I can’t claim to know anything about how to improve crop yields, become more resilient to climate issues, or manage their farms. But I can offer a better financial partnership that helps enable female farmers to grow and thrive in the ways they desire.
I recently had the opportunity to meet Rosalba Cifuentes, the woman behind my Bella Vista’s Mexico coffee. She spoke about her story, how she came to coffee and became the only woman in Mexico exporting coffees, as well as some of her projects back in her community helping to bring health care and PPE supplies. I learned that the coffee she is able to bring in through her current importer in the US is only a fraction of the coffee produced by the coops she organizes. The importer can only commit to a certain amount — barely enough to sustain the families in the coop. She’s been developing ways to roast the coffee and market it within Mexico, to grow their resilience locally, and their name nationally. It’s women like Rosalba who are true change makers.
As a small coffee-roasting company, I don’t have the ability to work directly with the coffee farms from which I source in order to pay them more per pound of coffee. Looking into other ways to help reinvest into these communities, I want to build partnerships with folks who are already doing good work by contributing a percent of my sales to programs that are having an impact. To start, I’ve decided to partner with Food4Farmers, a non-profit based in Vermont that focuses on resiliency for coffee farmers. Their work helps educate and provide tools that farmers can use to diversify their sources of income. Coffee farming is seasonal, leaving a shortage of income for a few months out of the year. By diversifying their income sources, families can better provide for themselves and their communities, and can become more resilient to climate change and other obstacles. These programs aren’t specifically targeted for female farmers, but naturally result in empowering mostly women, as women comprise about 80% of the coops they are working with.
I look forward to learning more specifics on the programs Food4Farmers is running, and sharing the stories of the communities with my customers!