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Volcafe promotes female coffee farmers

Volcafe, ED&F Man’s specialty coffee trading business, has developed a new blend of coffee sourced entirely from female coffee farmers in Guatemala. Known as ‘La Morena’, in reference to azucar morena (brown sugar) because of its sweet taste, it is sold online to small scale roasters in the USA via Volcafe’s direct channel, Genuine Origin.

Coffee farming is a challenging profession, but female producers in some regions of the world face a particularly steep hill. In Guatemala, many women become farm owners through family tragedy, only to face an industry dominated by men who can be dismissive of women in the business. Worse still, some try to take advantage of the women’s situations.

With help from Volcafe, Mujeres en Café - the Guatemalan chapter of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance - is fighting back. Volcafe’s first step was to arrange a field trip for all the female producers to learn about Volcafe’s unique farmer outreach programme, known as The Volcafe Way. Working direct with coffee farmers, The Volcafe Way uses model farms to train them in sustainable production techniques, good agronomy practices and sound business management.

Maria Renee Morales, Volcafe’s Assistant Manager in Guatemala, explains: “We offered our help and tailored The Volcafe Way to female owners, sharing the knowledge they really need. So the next time the guy with the fertiliser comes, they can say, ‘No, that price is too high. I know what it should cost.’ Or, ‘I know this worker has the ability to prune one line of coffee, but he’s pruning only two plants per day.’ With knowledge comes confidence and stronger management. ”

The second step was to run a contest in which the women farmers sent samples for tasting. Maria Renee Morales and her cupping team were duly impressed and selected the three best lots. The winners were Celeste Fumagalli, from her farm in Jutiapa, Karin Hernandez from Ciudad Vieja, and Jovita Castillo, manager of Joya Grande in Santa Rosa.

The Volcafe team then went on to develop a specialty coffee from the three winning farms, each from a different region of Guatemala. The result is Genuine Origin’s ‘La Morena’, a clean, sweet tasting blend, with a predominant flavour of brown sugar, produced almost entirely by women, from bean to cup. The coffee is now selling well and, for every pound sold, Volcafe donates 35¢ to the International Women’s Coffee Alliance.