Blog written by CPF Youth Coordinator, Carolyne Mutai
Despite contributing up to 70% of the labour required to plant, grow and harvest coffee, women farmers in Kenya rarely own any of the land or coffee bushes that grow on it. These assets usually belong to the men, as the heads of the family, and as a result women are often unable to join farming cooperatives and earn or control income from their own labor.
However, some organized women’s group are beginning to turn this around, and in May one such group from the Kapkiyai Cooperative attended a the first training of its kind at the Sireet Centre of Excellence. The women’s group was started in 2012 by a group of women who had received coffee bushes and begun growing and producing their own coffee and has since grown to 92 members. Supported by Fairtrade Africa and the Fairtrade Foundation through the Women in Coffee programme, these women are now empowering themselves to manage their own businesses and earn income independently.
Sireet – Centre of Excellence for Micro-Enterprise
Sireet Centre of Excellence was set-up and launched with support from Cafédirect Producers’ Foundation (CPF) at the start of 2016. These Centres of Excellence are farmer-led businesses and exist as a network of demonstration farms established as living, learning classrooms where farmers can test new ideas and take leadership in training visitors to apply innovative approaches to farming and businesses management.
Sireet itself is primarily focused upon microenterprise development and was very excited to demonstrate the value of its expertise to its first customers. During the workshop, women from Kapkiyai visited a demonstration farm and were introduced learn to methods for beekeeping, dairy production by using hydroponic units and kitchen gardens. These low cost techniques are great ways for the women to diversify their incomes and produce a range of products, even on small plots of land.
Farmers receiving training at Sireet Centre of Excellence demonstration site
Women in Coffee
In addition to micro-enterprise training, the group were able to benefit from the expertise of CPF and Sireet board member, Pauline Too. Pauline led the group through a series of training sessions on a variety of topics that concern women farmers: empowerment, gender equality, marketing, leadership and governance. Pauline and her team recognize that empowering women to participate in economic activity is essential in order to build strong economies, improve the quality of life within their communities, and propel businesses towards their goals. Therefore, Pauline’s training looked to emphasise the importance of:
- establishing women leadership for gender equality
- equal treatment within the workplace
- ensuring the health, safety and well-being of all
- promoting education, training and professional development of women
- implementing enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women
- transparently measuring and publicly reporting on progress to achieve gender equality
The women were also trained on how to expand business relationships with women-owned businesses and support gender-sensitive solutions to the barriers experienced by women seeking credit or loans.
CPF and Sireet Board member, Pauline Too, delivering training at the Sireet Guest House
As for the community leadership and engagement, the women were able to explore ways in which to use their leadership skills to interact with others and lead by example in promoting and advocating for gender equality.
Research shows that when women are in control of more of the household income, improvements can be seen across the board, particularly in areas such as health and education as well as financial benefits to their household and wider community. The women from Kapkiyai have already begun benefitting from their ability to earn and manage their own income – meaning they have been able to pay school fees for their children, increase their financial literacy, and contribute to household activities. The additional training at Sireet was a successful addition to this process, and all the materials and workshops were well received by the women that attended. It is exciting to see a validation of how the CPF Centre of Excellence model can work to the benefit for trainer and trainee alike – as both are empowered to value their leadership and knowledge. It has already been decided that the relationship will not end here, as Sireet were requested to organise a return visit with the women at their workstation, for more training and a continuation in their development as empowered leaders for women in coffee.