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Coffee Origin Stories: Colombian Café Femenino

by Laurel Zoff Pelton |

Our new Colombian Café Femenino coffee hits three of our highest priority selection criteria when buying a new coffee; it's a delicious, high-quality single origin coffee with a powerful social benefit. 

As roasters, we at Tiny Footprint Coffee have been committed to supporting women farmers in the past and present, sourcing a large percentage of Mexican and Guatemalan coffees from women coffee producers. And we have to say, in terms of sourcing our beans with women’s empowerment in mind: the impact of Café Femenino® and the women behind it is inspiring.

With each bag of beans you buy, you not only get tasty fuel for your day, but you directly help fill the tank of the social and economic progress of the women coffee farmers who make this coffee possible. And as always, with your purchase at Tiny Footprint Coffee, you’re working towards a sustainable environment in which they may continue to grow.
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Colombian Café Femenino COSURCA farmer- Image courtesy of Fair Trade TRANSFAIR USA.

[Colombian Café Femenino COSURCA farmers. All images courtesy of Fair Trade TRANSFAIR USA]

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Shop Colombia - Cafe Femenino - Medium Roast here.

While women coffee farmers in Cauca, Colombia have always played a vital role in the region’s coffee production, only recently have they begun being recognized and directly compensated for their work.

On a global scale, this dynamic has been common for decades - one of women coffee farmers performing much of the labor on farms, with nearly all of the money going to men. This contributes to a perpetual social imbalance in farming communities, in which women’s voices are left unheard, and their ability to organize in their community remains minimal, if not discouraged.

For the women of the Cauca region, the seeds for changing this power imbalance were planted in Peru in 2003. It all started when Isabel Uriarte Latorre and her husband Victor Rojas Diaz – Peruvian cooperative leaders with backgrounds small-scale coffee farming and social work - had an idea: pay women directly for the coffee they produce, and in turn, help bring them economic and social equality. Isabel took the concept of a women-only coffee brand to their long-time partners, Organic Products Trading Company, a specialty coffee importer in Vancouver, WA, and from there, Café Femenino® was formed. 

Since its inception in Peru, Café Femenino® has established and enforced a standard of women’s empowerment in coffee production, and now has grown to include coffee communities in nine countries, impacting the lives of women coffee farmers, along with their communities.

Café Femenino® was brought to the women of Cauca in 2004, and the Café Femenino Colombia Program was founded among the COSURCA cooperative of regional farms. As with each new cohort of the Café Femenino® movement, the women coffee farmers of COSURCA gained not only social agency as women working within the movement, but became economic and social bolsters for themselves and their communities.

To be sure that the impacts of its work will be effective, Café Femenino® has required standards for all farms - including and beyond Certified Fair Trade practices. This ensures not only an ethical standard in working conditions and pricing, but specifically a standard of uplift and empowerment for women. Colombian Café Femenino COSURCA farmers - Image courtesy of Fair Trade TRANSFAIR USA

At its founding, the women of the Colombia Program had to overcome plenty of barriers in terms of organizing, particularly when it came to social dynamics. According to Cafe Femenino® spokesperson Connie Kolosvary, like many of their programs, the Colombia Program’s initial task was first combatting a social dynamic which discouraged women from leaving their homes. The issue was not only getting women to attend meetings, but a lack-of-self-confidence when it came to contributing.

As part of the Café Femenino® mission, the women discuss and vote on what issues they would like to tackle, and specifically where they would like to invest their coffee premiums. But without the women’s voices, the discourse can’t occur and the suggestions can’t be heard. Thankfully, a large part of Cafe Femenino®’s work is creating and providing workshops to combat this issue.

Through years of work and perseverance, these women have effectively overcome these socialized roadblocks, have undergone gender equality and leadership training, and now serve as an organized, thriving and integral sect of their community and economy. Today, there are 438 women farmers actively working within the Colombia Café Femenino Program, farming Fair Trade Certified coffee. They now serve in leadership roles, participate in community and business meetings, obtain the title to the lands on which they farm, and earn an extra premium for their high-quality coffee beans.

Colombian Café Femenino - Image courtesy of Fair Trade TRANSFAIR USA

According to Kolosvary, with this money directly in their pockets, the women bear a newfound confidence and agency that builds on itself, and the men in their communities have responded. Today, the women farmers of the COSURCA cooperative are actively championed by both their husbands and local government. In addition to their newfound support in social and business dealings, in many homes women are now handling finances, and rates of domestic abuse have dropped dramatically. 

One of the greatest barriers the women of the Colombia Program have had to work through is the social, economic, and personal impact of prevalent drug trade, and once again through the work of Café Femenino® programs, these women have been able to organize and make incredible strides. Though a threat of violence comes with their efforts, the leaders of the program actively work to persuade farmers to transition their crops to coffee from coca, affecting their economy and bolstering a sense of community. 

Since this Colombia Program’s creation, the women farmers involved have also directly affected their community by enacting a Healthy Kitchen’s Initiative. Through this program, they’ve invested in nearly 100 kitchens in the homes, and built in new designs to meet their standards of safety and ventilation.

Through the Café Femenino Colombia Program, these women farmers have become activists and community organizers, and today continue to grow and shape a new bedrock of their community through Café Femenino® safety programs, gender equality and leadership trainings, and nutrition initiatives - all of which have already had lasting impacts on their communities and the people within them.

Colombian Café Femenino - Image courtesy of Fair Trade TRANSFAIR USA.

The Café Femenino Colombia Program has existed for over sixteen years, and through that time it remains true: every bag of beans you buy directly affects and is a product of the community of innovative women coffee farmers in Cauca.

Thanks to these women and the Café Femenino® founders before them, when you choose our Colombian Café Femenino, you’re choosing more than a specialty coffee.

You’re choosing to stand with women coffee farmers fighting for the credit they deserve and the voice they need to empower themselves and their communities.

Shop Colombia - Cafe Femenino - Medium Roast here.

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