How a cup of Femenino improves the lot of poor Peruvian women

A women’s co-operative in rural Peru is using a new coffee brand to improve the lot of female coffee workers – a sort of “Fairtrade plus gender”. With so much bad news lately, Women’s eNews has chosen the perfect time to perk us up with a good news story.

Sold to roasters at Cafe Femenino, the co-operative buys coffee at an even higher price than Fairtrade.

In order for a woman to join the co-op, she must show that her own name is on the deed to the land she works. Since the coffee income is greater with the Cafe Femenino fair-trade program–the women make about 17 cents more per pound, or about 30 percent more than the average coffee farmer–it benefits the whole family, a persuasive argument for the husbands to cede land to their wives.

Latorre also sees to it that the money generated by Cafe Femenino is given directly to the female farmer. Another portion–the income from the two-cents-per-pound surcharge–is devoted to the co-op, for all the women to determine how it will be spent.

Cafe Femenino sent its first shipment in August 2004. Those 19,000 pounds of coffee brought in $27,000 to the women’s co-op. The first year’s extra income has been invested in coffee production, but the psychological effects of the higher income are already rippling through the communities. Now women are meeting together independently to talk business, and the men are not preventing them from doing so.