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Enabling women to take their coffee businesses further in Costa Rica

Project Overview

San José, Costa Rica

Project Start Date
Fall 2021

Empowering coffee farmers in the La Legua community with business development and resources to strengthen economic opportunities for women.

Country Context
Women coffee farmers in Costa Rica earn 40% less than their male counterparts and are more excluded from access to valuable information and market opportunities. These communities are also still recovering from significant income losses due to challenges from the pandemic.

Project Background

Globally, women account for approximately 70% of the labor in coffee production—including operating 20-30% of coffee farms globally—and yet wide gender gaps remain in terms of access to resources such as credit, land, or technical assistance. There are approximately 248 million smallholder women farmers operating around the world, the majority of whom live in rural areas and farm on less than 5 acres of land. Despite their heavy involvement on farms, women’s ability to succeed as farmers and business leaders are limited and they are exposed to greater risks of poverty: 68% of them earn barely earn enough to sustain their families.

In Costa Rica, women coffee farmers earn 40% less than their male counterparts and face significant challenges in accessing proper training and information that will help improve the productivity, quality, and income from their harvests. This is largely because women lack access to direct markets with buyers who can pay a higher price for their coffee. They also have little to no peer support or guidance with their work, nor do they have easy access to social resources for counseling or mental health support. In addition, because they mostly live in rural areas, these communities of women experience higher rates of domestic violence.

Bean Voyage, WECO’s partner in San José, is an organization working to break the cycle of poverty affecting coffee-farming communities and provide critical support to women farmers through educational opportunities, business training, market resources, civic engagement, and well-being assistance.

Of the women that comprise their community, 54% have never received formal training on how to run their coffee business, and less than 10% have board leadership in local level cooperatives in Costa Rica, which limits their ability to influence and benefit from the coffee industry.

To learn more about Bean Voyage, please visit their website.

Empowering coffee farmers with business development

In 2021, WECO partnered with Bean Voyage and ASIPROFE, a women-led association of coffee farmers in the La Legua de Asseri region of Costa Rica who provide and strengthen economic opportunities for women in their community. To learn more about the early stages of this project, see our overview video here.

WECO assisted ASIPROFE in completing the building of a communal micro-mill to process their and member coffee for export and local consumption. The mill provides ASIPROFE with greater control over the coffee production process and allows them to expand economic opportunities to other local producers.

Now that the micro-mill is complete, WECO is continuing to support ASIPROFE with business development funding so they can develop the next stages of their business in collaboration with Bean Voyage. This includes increasing their access to training, subject-matter experts, and personalized mentorship so the association can create a sustainable plan for the future, along with start-up funding so the women can process more coffee beans for greater profit.

Ultimately this will fill both income and knowledge gaps that exist for the community to enable their long-term success. In the future, this project will also include opportunities for groups to visit the community and contribute to needs-based volunteer efforts.

To learn more about ASIPROFE and La Legua, please visit their Café Aromas de la Legua Facebook page.

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