Towards gender equity at origin

Spearheaded by the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI), the Partnership for Gender Equity (PGE) aims to build on the coffee industry’s efforts to improve the sustainability and resilience of coffee producing communities through a focus on improving the power balance between the genders at origin. The Partnership is a diverse alliance of coffee sector organisations committed to promoting the link between gender equity and supply chain resilience, and determining the best way to address the opportunity collaboratively and with a transformative, global impact. Founded in 2014, PGE brings together private companies, development agencies, research institutions and practitioners, as a community of practice to leverage engagement and investment. While at its heart PGE is a research initiative, it is also tying its activities to concrete outcomes. The PGE research framework encourages a rigorous understanding of what constitutes good practice, so that the knowledge gained from field-level projects can be used to implement high-impact strategies and practices to drive real change at origin. In particular, PGE’s work focuses on gender-specific engagement in supply chain activities to produce a greater return on investment. “As climate change, food insecurity, lack of investment in education, and youth reluctance to work on coffee farms threaten the future of our industry, we must make gender equity a priority,” says CQI’s Partnerships and Gender Advisor, Kimberly Easson. “A sustainable coffee sector demands it.” The project began with Stage One research into disparities between men and women in coffee value chains. This research culminated in an extensive report The Way Forward: Accelerating Gender Equity in Coffee Value Chains. In Stage Two, PGE’s systematic approach includes the creation and testing of a field-level project methodology, a shared measurement framework with an identifiable set of indicators to strengthen the business case for investment, and a community of practice to share experience and engagement. Now PGE is launching field level projects in producer communities in conjunction with farmers, buyers – roasters, exporters and importers – and development partners.
The pilots aim to have direct impacts on the results of buyers’ existing relationships and investments while also generating critical data to support the business case for promoting gender equity. “Our theory of change for field-level projects indicates that industry-led engagement with coffee-producing households and organisations will result in greater equity between male and female producers,” Easson says. “Increased gender equity in the supply chain will result in greater incomes and overall well-being for all members of the household – men, women, boys, and girls – as well as a more sustainable supply of quality coffee from producer organisations. Better, more equitably produced coffee will spur more investment and engagement from industry partners.” One such field project is now underway in Myanmar’s southern Shan state, with traditional communities that grow a variety of crops including tea, flowers, and high-grown Arabica coffee.
Linked to CQI’s three-year project with the USAID Value Chains for Rural Development program with Winrock International, PGE is working in six farming communities to integrate gender equity training at the farm and organisation level. “Farmers are not organised around getting the coffee to market; part of the CQI plan is to support farmers to organise within their capability in the local context (legally and culturally),” Easson says. The Myanmar phase of the project kicked off in November, 2016, with a workshop targeted at coffee-producing households, which recruited “champions” for the project who are now entrusted with organising their own events, with support from locally trained coaches, ensuring the growing reach of the program. In addition to this, CQI is providing training to help farmers create associations, cooperatives, or some other acceptable legal structure that will facilitate their ability to do business, and access credit. As part of this work, PGE will incorporate gender methodologies into trainings that are being held to help farmers organise formally. “This is an exciting opportunity to design ,from the very start, how farmer organisations can best incorporate gender equity into their foundation,” Easson says. “In other countries where organisations already exist, we have to go back and build gender equity into existing structures, which means encountering entrenched policies and practices that tend to be exclusive.” Specifically, the training will include specialised modules about the impact of a gender inclusive approach, and encourage participants to develop their strategies, programs and legal structures to reflect gender inclusion. “We will work with the original three communities (and add three more communities) to deepen this work within their developing organisational structures and to leverage the outcomes of the November 2016 household workshop and the work of the gender champions,” says Easson. The PGE is running a similar field project in Nicaragua, with the same goal of reaching 3000 beneficiaries over the life of the project. However, Easson says there a couple of structural advantages to working in the Central American nation. “There are strong producer organisations in place who are our partners in implementing the project, which means we are building gender equity methodologies into existing farmer organisations – as opposed to starting from scratch in Myanmar, and we are also working with the Nicaragua Chapter of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance,” she says. Along with these field projects, PGE is also collaborating with the Safe Platform of the Inter-American Development Bank produce a tested design for gender equity investment and intervention that will be available for use broadly by the industry. The sponsor for this initiative is US-based roaster S&D Coffee and Tea, who will collaborate on indicator validation and future implementation of PGE project methodology. Specifically, PGE will leverage SAFE funds to test a project methodology that can be adopted by SAFE members and the broader industry, and a measurement framework to assess return on investment and development outcomes. In Honduras and Mexico, PGE is working with Dutch non-government agency Solidaridad to strengthen the capacity of male and female coffee producers and their organisations to effectively promote gender equity among their members and within the various aspects of the coffee sector and the government. This project focuses on gender analysis in the context of current national policies and incentives to promote gender equity in the context of each particular country, and of producer organisations to better understand the situation and identify the gender gaps that persist in the coffee sector.  From this analysis, PGE will develop specific program activities within coffee producer organisations at the board level to enhance gender relations among their members as well as their skills and knowledge to promote gender equitable policies and practices. Away from origin, PGE has collaborated with a group of allied organisations working on gender equity and women’s empowerment to develop Gender Equity Principles (GEPs) for the coffee sector. The GEPs are seven statements for organisations to sign that highlight the importance of gender equity in the value chain of coffee and serve to guide organisational practices.
A number of industry stakeholders have provided input on a draft version of the principles for comment. The principles will be launched in autumn 2017, with companies across the sector signing on to demonstrate their commitment to gender equity. GCR

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