Women in Ethiopia sort through coffee beans at coffee-washing stations.

Next time you brew your morning cup of coffee, take a minute to think about the people who grew your coffee beans. Those flavorful beans have probably traveled thousands of miles. They were most likely grown, harvested, and handled by smallholder farmers and producers, many of whom are women.

Global estimates and country studies from the FAO and International Trade Centre suggest that female farmers and farm workers contribute an average of 43 percent of labor to coffee production, processing, and sales. Yet the returns on their labor are undervalued and underappreciated. Data on women’s access to and control over coffee production, resources, and incomes are limited, making it difficult to understand the scope of the problem and develop sustainable solutions.


Partnership for Gender Equity Launched

ACDI/VOCA has joined with the Coffee Quality Institute® (CQI) and its allies to launch the Partnership for Gender Equity initiative. This research initiative will identify the causes and consequences of gender inequality in the coffee sector and propose solutions for mitigating the problems. A literature review and hands-on workshops in four countries will provide guidance for the initiative and its partners.

The partnership offers a unique opportunity for private and public sector actors to combine their expertise to achieve a more efficient, profitable coffee industry. When all players—both women and men—are empowered to engage more effectively, the entire system benefits from increased productivity and gains.

“ACDI/VOCA is proud to contribute our experience facilitating public-private partnerships in coffee and other specialty food sectors to this collaboration,” said ACDI/VOCA’s Specialty Crops Technical Managing Director T.J. Ryan. “Our goal is to strengthen farming communities and producer associations, link them with markets, and ultimately improve their quality of life by recognizing and catalyzing women’s contributions in this sector.”


Woman in Ecuador checks on coffee beans drying in a solar dryer

Woman in Ecuador checks on coffee beans drying in a solar dryer.


Valuing Women’s Role

Promoting gender equity for households and communities through our programs is a mainstay of ACDI/VOCA’s approach to economic development. We understand how to encourage industry players to make the coffee supply chain more gender equitable. But we also recognize the importance of helping communities shift gender norms that devalue women’s labor in coffee production.

“Smallholder farmers working in the coffee sector are among the most vulnerable and poorest farmers worldwide,” says Lydia Mbevi-Nderitu, regional gender technical advisor for ACDI/VOCA based in Kenya. “Women and girls are particularly marginalized. We need to promote their participation and contributions, giving them a voice in their homes, communities, and beyond.”


Coffee Runs through Our Veins

ACDI/VOCA has a rich history of working with smallholder coffee farmers. Our partnerships with coffee cooperatives in Colombia and Ethiopia have helped bring sustainable growth to these markets. We equip producers to meet global coffee quality standards with a better product. We link coffee producers with elite markets and help them realize higher incomes.

We bring our knowledge of gender and the coffee market system to the initiative. Together with CQI we can address gender inequalities, empower communities, and grow a stronger coffee system—making your morning cup of coffee that much more satisfying.


Learn more

Visit CQI’s website for more information about the Partnership for Gender Equity. ACDI/VOCA and CQI are joined by fellow founding partners Mars Drinks, Falcon Coffees of Westrock Coffee Company, and AMFOTEK.