Strauss Coffee to Invest in Women’s Coffee Program in Colombia

Strauss Coffee, in partnership with Sustainable Harvest and the Relationship Coffee Institute, will introduce a new program to improve coffee quality and productivity for female farmers in Colombia.


Cover photo courtesy of Sustainable Harvest 

A lot of things make coffee better—for example, better growing practices, a deeper understanding of soil quality, or more advanced machinery for depulping coffee cherries. Time and again, one of the single biggest contributors to an increase in both coffee quality and outcomes for farmers is investment in women. That’s why Strauss Coffee, one of the largest coffee companies in the world, in partnership with Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers and the Relationship Coffee Institute (RCI), are taking part in a new incentive program aimed at improving the lives of female farmers in Colombia.

Christine Condo (right) from Sustainable Harvest Rwanda meets with members of the Coocentral cooperative during the Global Specialty Coffee Expo in Seattle in April to review the Premium Sharing Rewards program. Photo courtesy of Sustainable Harvest.

“Research has shown us that women are responsible for over 70 percent of the work in the global coffee market, yet they often own about 15 percent of the land, mills and actual product,” says Orr Rachlevsky, director of strategy and projects for Strauss. “Women are the driving force behind families and communities—investing in women is the best investment we can make.” Women are more likely to reinvest their earnings into the communities, so pledging aid and support was almost an easy choice that Strauss made to create better outcomes for farmers, and ultimately produce better coffee in Colombia. Before this project, Strauss already committed resources to projects in Honduras, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Vietnam, and El Salvador.

The Coocentral cooperative is based in the Huila district of Colombia, and Strauss will invest in a group of 300 women who are members of the cooperative. Photo courtesy of Coocentral.

In Colombia, Strauss will work with a group of about 300 female farmers that are part of the Coocentral cooperative in the Huila district of Colombia, introducing the Premium Sharing Rewards incentive program that helps farmers master training to increase productivity and quality. Sustainable Harvest’s sister organization, the nonprofit Relationship Coffee Institute—under the support and funding of Bloomberg Philanthropies—successfully piloted Premium Sharing Rewards with two Rwandan women’s cooperatives in 2015. The partnership with Strauss Coffee will further refine the Premium Sharing Rewards model by testing it in a Latin American context at Coocentral.

“We see this partnership with Strauss as a great opportunity for our women’s programs to continue to improve the quality of our coffee and our livelihoods,” says Dora Mora. Dora is a member and leader of the Coocentral women’s program, which has produced over 35 million pounds of coffee. With this new partnership, female farmers in the co-op will be better equipped to produce better coffees and take on more leadership positions within their organization, ensuring higher wages for women, more equity in land ownership and wage distribution, and ultimately better outcomes for communities.

The Premium Sharing Rewards incentive program was piloted by the Relationship Coffee Institute, under the support and funding of Bloomberg Philanthropies, with two women’s cooperatives in Rwanda. Photo courtesy of the Relationship Coffee Institute.

Initiatives aimed at female farmers aren’t new, but what’s unique about this particular project is that it can scale upward. “This partnership shows a commitment from Strauss Coffee, the Relationship Coffee Institute, and Sustainable Harvest to tackle gender inequality with innovative models that can scale impact,” says David Griswold, founder and CEO of Sustainable Harvest. “Together, we aim to create meaningful training programs to improve quality and productivity, with creative short-term incentives designed to bridge the seasonal gap before the new, longer-term market solutions take hold.”

The Coocentral cooperative will receive training, development, and equipment from Strauss Coffee and Sustainable Harvest. Photo courtesy of Sustainable Harvest.

Sustainable Harvest, which partnered with Bloomberg Philanthropies to create RCI, is no stranger to innovative initiatives aimed at helping women. RCI is responsible for some of the gains made for female farmers in Rwanda, including the Let’s Talk Coffee Rwanda events that have been taking place over last few years, putting female farmers in front of roasters and buyers to offer context and relationships with the coffees they’re growing. The next Lets Talk Coffee Rwanda event is June 7-11 in Kigali.

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