I’m very blessed to be in the business I’m in, and these women that I support in Peru, Guatemala, and Mexico have been very blessed by my customers. For me, life is about being where I can most benefit the people that I come in contact with. Whether it’s my awesome friends or humanitarian causes; I want to make a positive difference in these lives that I touch.
The women and children in ND also benefit from the coffee growers I do business with. That is so huge if you pause to think about it; a woman coffee grower in Guatemala, for example, is helping a woman in ND. I appreciate each and every one of you, my customers, for believing in my causes and your loyalty to MoJo Roast; without you, none of this would be possible, for that, I thank you.
Read the story below and see how I have tied women together in the world.
The Story of Café Femenino Peru
The Café Femenino® story in Peru continues to be an inspiration to all of us at Organic Products Trading Company. When we first started this project in 2004 with 464 women coffee producers, we were not sure what the reactions to this concept would by either roasters or consumers. But we did understand that this was truly a ground breaking initiative and that we were compelled to move forward with it. For our company, there was no question that Café Femenino was a very important project with global implications.
What we could not predict was if the market accept the product and if all of our efforts would help these women coffee producers? Today we can answer many of these questions, and in all cases the answer is a resounding, yes!
For the past three summers we have visited with the women coffee producers in Peru, traveling to many of these remote communities and learning about their lives and the effects that Café Femenino is having on their lives. For the past three years in July they have held the Annual Encounter of the Women of the CECANOR Cooperative. Each year we have been able to observe the personal growth of these women.
In the first meeting we participated, which coincided with the first production year of Café Femenino, we shared with them the final version of the Café Femenino logo that we had collaborated on, and we talked about each of our expectations and our commitments to each other to insure the success of Café Femenino. As the women spoke they hung their heads or hid their faces when speaking, they seemed fearful and unsure of themselves. But in their eyes I could see hope. Many of the women had their children with them for there was no one who helped them with their care.
In the second years meeting one of the glaring differences was the absence of their children. I asked them where their children were, and their response was quite simply, amazing. They told me their children were home and their husbands were taking care of them, as they were attending a business meeting! I knew this was huge progress in just one year by gaining the support of their husbands. Their demeanor had changed also, though they were hesitant to share with me when I asked how Café Femenino was affecting their lives. After the first hand was raised to talk to me, hands around the room began to wave. Everyone was excited to share with me their successes. The women told me that with Café Femenino they felt like for the first time in their lives they had some control over their lives. They told it was the first time in their lives that they had ever had any money of their own. They told me that their husbands were supporting them and they were supporting each other. For me the tears of joy and hope rolled down my face. It was possible, we were changing lives and families and communities. I felt so proud of these brave and pioneering women. They were my inspiration, my shining lights.
But the year 2006 brought yet even more profound changes. The group of women coffee producers now had grown to 755 women producers. One of the things the women love the most about Café Femenino was the meetings and the relationships they were now developing with other women. Relationships with other women never existed before Café Femenino, but in 2006 190 meetings were held with the women to provide capacity building activities that they did together. Café Femenino was the program that dreams were built on and of. In this year the women had grown even more. The shy but hopeful women of one year ago had grown to women of purpose and vision, women who were now becoming dynamic with voices that would be heard. In each of their zonal organizations they had developed rudimentary business plans. Ideas they shared with us of how they could grow even more, creating more opportunities for themselves through thoughtful and creative planning. Some of their ideas were to begin small animal breeding projects and seed projects, that in time, would help feed their families, improve their health and provide additional income by selling the excess animals and produce into their local markets. They also had a plan to roast and sell their Café Femenino coffee at the larger cities and in the airport in Chiclayo, Peru. Yes, they had a number of ideas, they even brought some of their prototype products that they had created and want to sell to show us. These were not the same women we met only a few years ago; these were women who now knew they had value. These were women who are creating a new generation.
These ideas have been drafted into grant requests that have been submitted to the Café Femenino Foundation, and this past year the foundation has worked and continues to work to raise funds to provide the seed capital to give these women a chance to make their dreams come true. For roasters that are donating a portion of your proceeds to the foundation, these women are so grateful for the opportunities that these funds are providing. Additionally this past year a grant from the foundation was given to these women to provide funds to allow 600 daughters of women producers to go to school. The foundation hopes to be able to continue to supply funds so that for the future girls will also have this opportunity for education.
But for all of the changes that have occurred with the women over the past few years, the most astonishing change is not the changes in the women, but the changes in the men. It is a change that we never expected, and yet in just a short time, we are seeing and hearing the men verbalize their support for the women. The cooperative board of directors told us that Café Femenino is the most important work that they have ever done. The men have acknowledged the abuse they were responsible for and are admitting that they now see the errors in their thinking. Today they tell us how much they value their wives. The women have smiles on their faces and a gentle touch for their husbands, in their own way accepting what was and appreciating what now is and dreaming about what can be in the future.
Written by Gay Smith
Organic Products Trading Co.
Co-Founder Café Femenino Coffee Project and Café Femenino Foundation