Number of women in coffee on the rise

From production to sales, the presence of women has become increasingly noticeable in the coffee industry, with a growing number taking on leadership roles. Globally, according to a survey by the International Coffee Organization (ICO), between 20% and 30% of coffee farms are run by female leaders and up to 70% of the production workforce, depending on the region. In Brazil, 13.2% of establishments are run by women.

“Women’s contribution throughout history has been fundamental in building the way for agriculture, both for sustainable and productive coffee growing. It’s very important to encourage women to own and manage their businesses. I come from a family that has always supported me on this path, my mother and I are producers, and today I am the first vice-president of the Cerrado Coffee Growers’ Cooperative (Expocacer), where 38% of the leaders are women,” said Mariana Heitor.

Mariana manages the Reserva Heitor farm in Patos de Minas city, in the state of Minas Gerais, and is part of the family’s third generation of coffee growers. 140 of the 216 hectares of Reserva Heitor property are used to grow coffee sustainably. The farm has established permanent preservation and legal reserve areas, as well as being a benchmark for projects of this kind in the region. Today, the reforested area on the property is 44.1 hectares.

More than 40,000 Brazilian coffee farms are run by women, according to the latest census by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). In addition to female managers, there are also those who are co-managing spouses, with 32,400 in Arabica coffee establishments and 15,700 in Canephora coffee establishments. This means that there are 88,700 women running and co-running coffee establishments throughout Brazil.

“Encouragement comes through knowledge and information, which is why nine years ago we created the “Elas no Café” project, which aims to train and encourage women in the sector through theoretical and practical courses. At the start of the program, we registered 13 female cooperators and today there are 116, an increase of 792% in the number of active women. It is estimated that over the course of the program, around 400 women have been trained, which only reaffirms that we are on the right track, with a commitment to diversity and inclusion,” says Expocacer’s vice-president, Heitor.

Michele Silva is one of those women active in the project and manager of the “Três Mulheres Cafés” farm in Patrocínio city, in the state of Minas Gerais. She has been leading the property since 2018 and shares that she has faced many challenges, but with her unique vision, she has managed to take the property to the next level.

“The biggest challenge is one that everyone is already tired of facing: prejudice. But I believe that women have a more refined and organized perception, which helps in monitoring the processes of quality coffee. We have the power to influence the whole family with ideas and experiences,” explains Michele.

The producer’s daughters are already active in the coffee world and are part of a program run by the cooperative called “Teens”, which aims to encourage family succession in coffee growing, from the production, management and export processes to final consumption. IBGE data shows that the segment is made up of between 30% and 35% family production.

“I believe that we are on the right track. Women have made a difference in the history of coffee growing and we will continue to do so through the next generations. My daughters, for example, have been involved in the sector since a young age. I’m not just thinking of leaving an inheritance, I want to leave my mark, a legacy in my family’s and people’s lives,” she concluded.

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