Nespresso adds women to the mix

In 2003, Nespresso launched its AAA Sustainable Quality Program in collaboration with the environmental nongovernmental organisation Rainforest Alliance. The program is a unique sourcing approach, developed to secure the highest quality green coffee while protecting the environment and enhancing farmer welfare. For the past few years, the company has also made gender equality a priority of the AAA program. In May, it will publish a report that examines the barriers to strengthening the role of women in coffee farming and identifies opportunities to increase the involvement of women. Empowering women to play a more direct role in the management of smallholder farms could have a significant impact on the economic and social development of millions of people. Research by the United Nations shows that when women work, economies grow faster and communities directly benefit as women tend to invest more of their earned income into their family’s health, nutrition, and education. ‘‘Gender equality is a critical part of coffee sustainability and something that is an integral part of our AAA program,” says Daniel Weston, Nespresso Head of Sustainability. “We know there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach for the 75,000 coffee farmers of the AAA program, so we have been working with our partners to find the most appropriate ways to increase the number of female farmers within our program. “For example, to address female farmers not feeling qualified to apply for an agronomist role we have advertised a several-day training course instead of a job vacancy and found more females were inclined to participate. We are proud to be leading the way in creating initiatives that encourage more women to participate in coffee farming.’’ The report shows that female farmers are being held back – that men own most of the land and have better access to training, support services and credit. Women are further disadvantaged by pressures on their time, and often have additional responsibilities such as child care and domestic duties. The AAA program encourages coffee farmers to learn climate-smart quality practices that are necessary to build an economically viable smallholder business. In many countries, women are significantly involved in coffee production. It is therefore crucial for them to have access to the knowledge delivered by the AAA agronomists and trainers. By increasing women’s participation and learning, AAA can trigger a mindset shift and behaviour change that will positively impact the sustainability of coffee sourcing. Nespresso’s research showed that women farmers are more willing to take part in training if it fits around their childcare or domestic commitments, so Nespresso and its partners now schedule sessions at different times of the day. The research also found that many female farmers prefer to have a woman teaching them, so Nespresso hired more female agronomists. Today, more than 30 per cent of Nespresso agronomists are women, which is double the global average, according to World Bank estimates. Nespresso is investing more than 220,000 Swiss francs (approximately US$230,000) a year to promote gender equality in farming. Its gender strategy includes initiatives such as gender sensitisation training for farmers and community and cooperative leaders, and working closely with partners to develop new recruitment processes for agronomists in different types of communities. This training will be part of onboarding processes and followed up with regular refreshers. Myriam Sainz Stuyck is Director of Strategic Initiatives at TechnoServe, a non-governmental organisation and Nespresso’s strategic partner in Ethiopia and Kenya. ‘‘We work closely with Nespresso to deliver tailored sustainable solutions for coffee farmers,” she says. “Our field agronomists working in the AAA program work and live in the field, and are able to identify gender sensitive approaches that work for individual communities. For example, we have seen the presence of female agronomists in certain areas has boosted the participation of female farmers in training programs.’’ Also in May, Nespresso is launching a campaign to celebrate the contribution of women agronomists and farmers, by promoting the stories of several female farmers and agronomists from Ethiopia. Meseret Kanto is a Nespresso AAA agronomist from Aleta Wondo in southern Ethiopia. She trains farmers in techniques such as stumping of old trees to encourage new growth, and hand-selecting coffee cherries to ensure the best yield while protecting the tree for future harvests. “What amazes me about this job is looking at the farmers who’ve adopted the techniques I’ve shown them and seeing how their lives are changed,” Kanto says.

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