Colombian Coffee and Women Coffee Farmers

 

The Republic of Colombia, officially a South American country, not Central American as many have been led to believe, is one of the most important coffee producing regions in the world. The name "Colombia" is derived from the last name of the Italian navigator Christopher Columbus. The name was later adopted by the Republic of Colombia of 1819, formed from the territories of modern-day Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, Ecuador, and northwest Brazil.

 

Map of South America and Colombia highlighted in yellow

Map Courtesy of La Minita Coffee

“The geography of Colombia is characterized by its six main natural regions that present their own unique characteristics, from the Andes mountain range region shared with Ecuador and Venezuela; the Pacific Coastal region shared with Panama and Ecuador; the Caribbean coastal region shared with Venezuela and Panama; the Llanos (plains) shared with Venezuela; the Amazon Rainforest region shared with Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador; to the insular area, comprising islands in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.” Wikipedia

Columbia’s diversified economy is the third largest in South America, with macroeconomic stability and favorable long-term growth prospects. Columbia ranks number three in the world for coffee production. Coffee is one of the backbones of its economy contributing some 16 % of the annual Colombian agricultural output.  

The variety of different coffee beans that are grown in Colombia are surprising considering that Colombia is the 31st largest country based on overall GDP (2020), yet the 13,679,000 sacks of coffee grown in 14 coffee growing regions primarily focus on 2 distinct types of beans, Arabica, and Robusta. For the true coffee enthusiast, it is the Arabica bean, which is grown at high altitudes and processed and picked by hand on small farms, that coffee lovers covet for their complex aromas and smooth, rich texture.

Colombian Coffee Farm

Photo Courtesy of NY Times

Given the consistency and quality of coffee beans emanating from Colombian coffee regions, the small batch, small farm nature of Colombian coffee, and the dedication of the farmers to maintaining the hand-picking traditional methods of harvesting, it is not surprising that such keenness to a trade is increasingly attributable to women. Small farm collectives and cooperatives in Colombian coffee growing regions are where the women are taking an increased interest in operations related to harvesting, milling, roasting, and selling coffee berries on international and regional markets. These additional responsibilities are of course, in addition to the traditional women's roles in a historically patriarchal society of preparing meals, managing household chores and responsibilities including raising children. As the women are adept at these important management skills, it is no surprise that the rise of Colombian women's coffee collectives, designed to increase gender equality on coffee plantations, have begun to flourish in Columbia with the Asprosi collective, a 1,000+ membership group as a shining example of the growing influence of women in the industry. While these “Cafeteras' ' still face many impediments to their full participation in key organizations such as the National Federation of Coffee Growers in Columbia (FNC) and other important cooperatives that provide increased access to major international markets.

 Colombian Women Coffee Farmers

Photo Courtesy of Fair Trade Certified

The international markets that women’s collectives do have access to have resulted in great acclaim for the Fair Trade, Organic, small farm, small batch beans that they do produce. These highly regarded beans are resulting in Non-Profit NGOs such as the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI), based in Southern California, sponsoring programs in Columbia designed to allow for women involved in the coffee industry to get together and experience fellow member systems and methods and discuss the most successful strategies which result in improved quality and yield of the harvest. This growing influence in sections of the industry will continue to flourish as more women achieve positions of authority on the plantations. The FNC’s Coffee-Growing Women's Program now collects annual data related to the women collective and farm influence and the women themselves are obtaining positions in municipal and departmental committees in the FNC. One can only hope this gender equality strength, gained through growing influence due to the quality of their product, will continue to rise and that coffee consumers here in the United States, the largest coffee market worldwide with some $88 billion worth of coffee consumed, will take note of these women’s efforts, and turn their spending strength toward the products of their collectives. How does Colombia coffee taste?  Truly extraordinary succulent, sweet creamy texture, with vanilla notes and a hint of dates in the finish.