Between 20 and 30 percent of coffee farms are female-operated. What’s more, women provide up to 70 percent of labour in coffee production, depending on region, according to the International Coffee Organisation’s (ICO) 2018 report.
Gender equality has come a long way since the birth of the commercial cup. But when it comes to coffee producing, empirical evidence shows that women have systematically lower access to resources like land, credit and information, than men.
So, we must ask: Are women fairly represented in the coffee industry? And are we making strides to ensure that the industry is gender equal?
The gender gap in coffee production
Over the last few decades, organisations involved in the coffee industry – like the International Coffee Organisation and Rainforest Alliance – have collected and analysed data on the demographics of producers. Sure enough, collecting this data has proven difficult, and oftentimes, results are patchy and disproportionate.
But there are some key findings to take into account. For example, of the 25 million coffee producers worldwide, approximately 5 million are women, and women approximately own 25 percent less land than men. Analysis conducted by the World Bank also concluded that revenues from selling coffee are 39 to 44 percent lower for female-headed households in Ethiopia and Uganda.
There are many reasons this might be the case. In rural households of producer countries, for example, female-headed households make up between 5 and 30 percent. In some regions like Africa, the responsibility of farming is shared between men and women, with each member owning and growing their own coffee. Also, education standards between men and women in under-developed coffee-producing regions (like Africa, for example) are often bias against women.
In short, women are not given the same access to resources as their male counterparts. Consequently, gender inequality is a prominent issue. The irony in this is that closing this gender gap would boost global agriculture output by up to 4 percent.
Gender equality in coffee is a priority topic for many organisations today, and sure enough, companies are making change and trying to close the gender gap. Bloomberg philanthropists, for example, invested $10 million to women’s economic development through coffee initiatives in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In Costa Rica, the cooperative ASOMOBI setup the country’s first ever female-operated coffee mill that aims to share awareness about gender inequality and work to improve lives and protect communities.
The International Women’s Coffee Alliance has spent the last two decades fighting for equal rights in coffee and has worked hard to raise awareness of the importance the role women play in the coffee supply chain.
There’s more work to do
Organisations are working hard to try and close the gender gap in coffee production. But, there is a long way to go. We must all work hard to change mindsets and bring true empowerment to women in coffee.
Women farmers are ever-increasing. But, the decision-making roles in coffee production still remain largely in the hands of males – women are cultivating coffee, not selling it.
But producer countries are often under developed and lack the resources to make change. What’s more, every coffee producing country has its own set of unique barriers that hinders gender equality.
Regional, localised work from organisations is the best way to make change. This type of work has never been more important.
To find out more about the gender gap in coffee production, read this white paper from the Specialty Coffee Association.