How Café Femenino is making a difference
Or ... What Is Ethical Coffee?
Sometimes it is difficult to put into words the significant impact seemingly insignificant choices – such as a humble cup of coffee - can have on the lives of others.
In December 2019, we travelled to Peru with the Café Femenino Foundation and visited coffee-growing communities of the CECANOR Cooperative and the women coffee growers of the Café Femenino Program located in remote villages of the Lambayeque and the Amazonas region.
The Café Femenino Program?
On our trip, we had the privilege to meet Isabel Latorre, the inspiring founder of the Café Femenino idea. Much respected and revered amongst the coffee growers she founded the Café Femenino program in 2002 after she saw the potential to gather the women together to grow and sell their own coffee thereby directly empowering and enhancing women and their families. The first 4 containers of coffees were shipped in 2004. Fast forward to 2019, and now 40 containers of coffees are shipped annually. Today more than 746 women coffee growers work together under the Café Femenino Program: ‘Coffee that empowers’.
What difference has the Café Femenino Program made to women coffee growers and their communities?
We witnessed the economic and social change that has impacted the communities and families. Today the benefits of the program have been spread across 64 coffee-growing communities in Lambayeque, Amazonas, and Cajamarca to women who now earn an income equivalent to at least the Peruvian minimum wage through coffee.
Some of the older coffee growers told us that when the program first started, their husbands did not allow them to leave the house to participate in meetings. Today these very same women, travelled more than 24 hours to meet together in Chiclayo to celebrate the 17th anniversary of the Café Femenino Annual Meeting.
We also learnt from some of the women how proud they are to have control over their income which can be spent on better nutrition and education for their family. What a wonderful success story!
Ethical coffee prices
One of the reasons why the Cafe Femenino Program is hugely successful is the ethical coffee prices that are paid to farmers under the program. What do we mean by ethical coffee prices?
Commercial coffee is traded on the International Commodity Exchange Market. Historically significant volatility has occurred in coffee commodity prices which at times has fallen below the cost of production. For coffee farmers to receive prices above commodity prices, they require certifications and/or to grow higher quality coffee. The Café Femenino Program has been structured to pursue both higher quality and certifications.
All Café Femenino coffee is specialty coffee and carries Fairtrade and Organic Certifications. As such coffee sold under the program attract prices which are made up of:
- the Fairtrade price (if that falls below the commodity price for coffee),
- the Fairtrade premium,
- a premium for organic certified coffee,
- a Café Femenino program premium, and
- a premium for the quality of the coffee.
Organic certification is a long road for farmers and cooperatives. It takes 3 years to convert farmland from commercial coffee farming to organic farming accompanied by new pest and crop management procedures and rigorous quality controls. The Café Femenino Program is proud to ensure ethical prices are paid to support its women coffee farmer members.
The amazing work of the Café Femenino Foundation
Whilst the Café Femenino Program assists with coffee growing, training, selling, and marketing of coffee, the Café Femenino Foundation supports specific projects for either individual farmers or communities through external fundraising. Marilyn Dryke and her team, MJ Newcomb and Jan Weigel (Fresh Cup Magazin) are the gorgeous human beings behind the Café Femenino Foundation.
Fund requests are submitted either by the coffee growers directly or by any of the 64 communities. Historically funds have been granted for projects the facilitate income diversification. Throughout our trip, we visited some of these projects including vegetable gardens, beehives, and cocoa farms and also the farming of ‘cui’ (guinea pigs which are a much-needed source of protein).
Other projects funded include: water reservoirs, early learning centers nutritional education, cervical cancer screening, kitchen stoves, washing stations and drying patios for coffee, community centers, safe houses for women and recently medical emergency and food emergency programs.
How are we at 23 Degrees Coffee Roasters making a difference?
With the support of our amazing customers, we are working hard to give our coffee farmers a fairer share of a cup of coffee and are driving much-needed change in the coffee supply chain. For us this means buying coffees at fair and ethical prices, actively sourcing at least 50% of our coffees from women coffee growers and re-investing funds and our time into social projects which improve the income and wellbeing of our farmers and their communities.
Buying coffees through the Café Femenino Program means sourcing amazing specialty and organic coffees directly from women coffee growers whilst paying ethical coffee prices above Fairtrade prices. Learn more about the social projects we are supporting: Social Projects and the impact we are creating: Our Impact.
Try our freshly roasted coffee from the Cafe Femenino Program in Peru.