Number of women in leadership in the coffee industry increases, ICO reports

International Coffee Organization

According to a survey by the International Coffee Organization (ICO), between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of coffee farms are run by female leaders and up to 70 per cent of the production workforce, depending on the region. In Brazil, 13.2 per cent of establishments are run by women.

“Women’s contribution throughout history has been fundamental in building the way for agriculture, both for sustainable and productive coffee growing. It’s very important to encourage women to own and manage their businesses. I come from a family that has always supported me on this path, my mother and I are producers, and today I am the first Vice President of the Cerrado Coffee Growers’ Cooperative (Expocacer), where 38 per cent of the leaders are women,” says Mariana Heitor, who manages the Reserva Heitor farm in Patos de Minas city, Minas Gerais.

More than 40,000 Brazilian coffee farms are run by women, according to the latest census by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. In addition to female managers, there are also those who are co-managing spouses, with 32,400 in Arabica coffee establishments and 15,700 in Canephora coffee establishments. This means that there are 88,700 women running and co-running coffee establishments throughout Brazil.

“Encouragement comes through knowledge and information, which is why nine years ago we created the Elas no Café project, which aims to train and encourage women in the sector through theoretical and practical courses,” says Heitor.

“At the start of the program, we registered 13 female co-operators and today there are 116, an increase of 792 per cent in the number of active women. It is estimated that over the course of the program, around 400 women have been trained, which only reaffirms that we are on the right track, with a commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

Michele Silva is one of those women active in the project and manager of the Três Mulheres Cafés farm in Patrocínio city, Minas Gerais. She has been leading the property since 2018 and says she has faced many challenges but has managed to take the property to the next level.

“I believe that women have a more refined and organized perception, which helps in monitoring the processes of quality coffee. We have the power to influence the whole family with ideas and experiences,” says Silva.

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