Fairtrade Africa and the Fairtrade Foundation have launched a three-year project that will empower women coffee farmers in Kenya, and grow the East African market for Fairtrade certified coffee.
Despite contributing up to 70% of the labour required to plant, grow and harvest coffee, women farmers in Kenya rarely own land or coffee bushes. These assets usually belong to the men in the family and as a result, women are unable to join farming cooperatives or earn an income for their labour. But research shows that when women are in control of more household income, there are improved outcomes in areas such as health, education and investments.
Fairtrade’s Growing Women in Coffee project will encourage the transfer of coffee bush ownership to 150 women coffee farmers in the Kapkiyai Co-operative, enabling them to earn an independent income for the first time. A further 300 women within the Kabngetuny Co-operative, who have already benefitted from an asset-transfer programme, will receive training on good agricultural practices with the aim of increasing the yield and quality of their coffee. They will also benefit from the construction of ‘green energy’ biogas units for their homes, which will reduce exposure to smoke and reduce the time they spend collecting firewood.
Kipkelion Union, which brings together 32 co-operatives including Kapkiyai and Kabngetuny, will be supported by Fairtrade Africa to develop and market a branded ‘women’s coffee’ for sale within Kenya. It will also be able to share the learnings from the pilot with the other 30 co-operatives that it represents.
Wangeci Gitata, fundraising and partnerships manager for Fairtrade Africa, said: “We are very excited; women from the three co-operatives will be trained on good agricultural practices as well as the use of biogas for their homes. The women will have the opportunity to brand their coffee for the domestic market.”
David Finlay, fundraising manager at Fairtrade Foundation, said: “We are looking forward to working with Fairtrade Africa on this project, which will directly empower hundreds of women farmers and has the potential to benefit thousands more. By working with the women in these co-operatives to roast, grind, package and sell their beans as ‘women’s coffee’, we hope they will be able to increase the amount they sell on Fairtrade terms, which will bring benefits for their whole community”.
The Growing Women in Coffee project will be funded from January 2015 to December 2017 by a grant of £389,831 from the Big Lottery Fund (the first such grant it has made to Fairtrade), plus additional funding from the Guernsey Overseas Aid Commission, and will be delivered with support from local partners, Solidaridad Eastern and Central Africa Expertise Center (SECAEC) and Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers (KENFAP).