women empowerment

An important partnership between IWCA Brasil and the Cerrado Mineiro Region

Miriam Monteiro, IWCA vice-president, explains about the IWCA Code of Conduct

Miriam Monteiro, IWCA vice-president, explains about the IWCA Code of Conduct

On May 11, the Meeting of Innovation and Technology of Cerrado Mineiro Region happened at the EPAMIG Experimental Farm in Patrocinio. In the morning period we had a field day with four different technical stations about EPAMIG genetics improvement of coffee cultivars for Cerrado, new trends of mineral nutrition for coffee, management of coffee pests and management of coffee borer beetle. During the afternoon topics like sensorial analysis of EPAMIG cultivars, sustainable family farming, experiences of women in coffee were presented in three rooms and the main room had a panel  about challenges in coffee production in a climate change environment.

The room dedicated to woman in coffee had presentations of Miriam Monteiro, coffee producer, IWCA – International Women Coffee Alliance – vice-president, representative for Campo das Vertentes subchapter who talked about her farm's production of organic and agro-ecological coffees. Her lecture called the audience's attention that were curious about how to convert from conventional to organic production, crop management, productivity and market for organics. 

Afterwards, Carmem Lúcia Chaves de Brito, also known as Ucha, coffee producer from Três Pontas and president of BSCA – Brazilian Specialty Coffee Association –, has been producing specialty coffee for ten years. She did a captivating presentation about what she does at the farm to generate clients' enchantment and the results of long-term relationships. Also she spoke about the importance of management of farm operation processes and about how she keeps a motivated and well trained team that understand its role in producing a distinct coffee.

At last, Maria Gabriela Baracat Sanchez, agronomist and coffee producer, spoke about a change in the farm's coffee production strategy. She emphasized the contribution of management tools and certifications in the farm business administration. In 2016, the farm started a new way of production aiming specialty coffees by making use of coffee quality mapping and post-harvest processing that lead the family's farm to reach the first place at the 2017's Cerrado Mineiro Coffee Awards in Naturals category. 

In all presentations we saw how the competence and strength of these women and the use of management tools impact in consistent results. It was a privilege watching their lectures.

Also we had an important accomplishment for the women of Cerrado Mineiro Region. The Cerrado Coffee Growers Federation and the IWCA Brasil signed the letter of understanding represented by Miriam Monteiro, IWCA VP and Yuki Minami, representative for Cerrado Mineiro subchapter and Francisco Sérgio de Assis, federation's president. This strategic alliance sums up the IWCA's mission in three words: connect, empower and advance women in the coffee value chain.

If you're not an IWCA member I invite you to be part of this global network of people and companies with the common goal of giving visibility to women across several segments in the coffee industry and now officially from Cerrado Mineiro as well.

Coffee chain shortcut: from producers to barista and vice-versa

As part of Aequitas’ initiative of approaching farmers to the market, during one week in August, a series of lectures and coffee brewing workshops was held for 4 distinct groups of coffee producers in the region of São Gotardo.

During three and half hours, a brief outlook about the US market was presented – as result of my research field trip to the US in April for SCA coffee expo and impressions from the specialty coffee scene around Seattle, Portland, Bend, and San Francisco. Afterwards, throughout 3 hours Maria Antonia Mion, barista and partner at Supernova Coffee Roasters located in Curitiba – 1.100 km from São Gotardo – presented filtered coffee brewing techniques, perceptions about Curitiba’s specialty coffee consumers and her everyday experience behind the counter making lots of espressos, macchiatos, cappuccinos and drip coffee to Supernova clients.

Maria’s workshop is quite interesting, she teaches not only about extraction techniques but also curiosities and the history of each method. She divides the methods in timelines: classic, modern, and post-modern and focused on teaching the most popular methods in specialty cafés.

Specialty coffee talk at COOPACER co-op

At this edition, she taught in minute-details the importance of coffee and water qualities, storage, different coffee infusions and extractions due to different types of grinding and lastly a step by step for making a delicious coffee with a French press, Hario V60 and Aeropress. We used the producers’ coffee from the 2017 harvest. The workshop got more stimulating for everyone, especially the sensorial perceptions in body, sweetness and acidity when tasting the same coffee in different methods.  

At Coopacer, a co-op located in São Gotardo, the first group had producers, agronomists, co-op employees and local roasters participating. They were quite curious and lots of questions arose about the specialty coffee market.

The second group were formed by small producers, from 2,5 to 30 hectares, who are assisted by EMATER (Minas Gerais State Company for Rural Technical Assistance and Extension) and the activities happened at Mr. Rafael’s house in Agrovila – thanks a lot Mr. Rafael for your hospitality! They were quite curious about Maria’s teachings and it’s interesting noticing that each audience has different doubts, behavior and needs, even though dealing with the same thing that is coffee. This is the beauty of human nature.

Brewing workshop with Maria Mion at Mr. Rafael's house

Brewing workshop with Maria Mion at Mr. Rafael's house

The third class was at Coopadap where most of the participants were coffee producers. The class were quite advanced about concepts of specialty market and delighted themselves at the workshop.

At last, the 4th group was my darling one. I was there not just representing Aequitas but it was my contribution to IWCA, as an IWCA Cerrado Mineiro member and advocate for women empowerment, especially in the coffee chain. The women producers belong to the rural community of Chaves and to the co-op Carpec in Carmo do Paranaíba, 50 km from São Gotardo. Maria and I were quite surprised and pleased for seeing Maisa, a curious 16-year-old girl who were attending the workshop among adults. Her mother couldn’t participate so she was there to represent her. This is such a significant participation that express the importance of family succession in farming, whereas sometimes we see the younger generations that don’t want to continue in rural activity.

Women producers from the rural community of Chaves and CARPEC co-op. Maisa is the second on the left

Women producers from the rural community of Chaves and CARPEC co-op. Maisa is the second on the left

At the end, after an intense week sharing and learning through talks, workshops and visits to farms, the feeling was of fulfillment for the opportunity of impacting 40 people’s lives and a reinforcement to myself: I simply enjoy establishing connections with people and even more when those new links are created through coffee.


Other pictures

How Aequitas is addressing gender equity

Meeting with women coffee producers

Besides looking for promoting producers from the region of Sao Gotardo, Aequitas is focused in addressing gender equity with women producers from IWCA Brazil chapter, especially from the Cerrado Mineiro sub-chapter. I participate in many coffee events and most of them have notable majority of men producers, but gradually there's been created a room for women, as now we have some meetings exclusively for women producers where we talk about many subjects.

At first women are shy, as they're not used to have a space for sharing their experiences and opinions. We see several kinds of women producers, the ones who are active involved in farming activities, others who dedicate more time in household activities but are starting to have a voice in production that normally it's the husbands' territory, daughters of producers who are undergoing to family business succession (which is also my case). In the end, inhibition disappears and everyone shares what they have been doing for improvements in coffee quality, situations within their families by the increase in their participation in decisions related to coffee, and many other stories. It's rewarding to witness how those women growers feel more empowered and confident after each event.

coffee women producers

On March 30th 2017, with the help of PhD. professor Raquel Santos Soares Menezes from Federal University of Viçosa, a researcher of the topic women in business and an active member of IWCA Cerrado Mineiro, I met a group of 5 women producers who are engaged in producing high-quality coffee. We presented Aequitas mission that is fostering connections with the specialty coffee market in a transparent and equitable relationship. We talked about each one’s story in coffee production, how they felt about the way their coffee is traded, the importance of cupping their own coffee, post-harvesting techniques, etc. We explained about the traditional coffee journey through supply chain, the Aequitas market access model, how C-market influences coffee prices, differentials, costs for exporting, etc.

Finally, as part of our commitment in building a company focused in understanding the producers’ needs we asked them to tell what Aequitas could offer them, as we’re interested in building together a bilateral relationship that it’s more than just buying and selling coffee. All producers asked for transparency. An aspect that many roasters values is also a request for these women. They shared their curiosity in learning where their coffee go to and transparency in the traded price. At the end of the meeting, the producers committed to looking for a coffee tasting course, as they realized the importance of checking if the whole processes they’ve been applying throughout the coffee plantation are resulting satisfactory cupquality.

What excites me the most in every meeting is the possibility of mobilizing women and exchanging experiences. Our next step is already defined: gathering again after harvesting season to roast and cup our samples and debating each other processes and experiments.