7 Mar 2022
Strong Women, Strong Cooperatives, Strong Coffee
A group of Rwandan women are bucking usual gender stereotypes by producing a coffee grown and processed entirely by women. Now they have succeeded in getting their coffee placed in one of Germany’s most popular retail chains.
Women’s contribution to society is fundamental to solving many of the challenges we are facing today. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that closing the gender gap in agriculture would reduce the number of undernourished people by up to 150 million, and could increase agricultural output in developing countries by up to four percent. Yet women often work the land but don’t own it, are excluded from membership of cooperatives, access to credit or many other services, and are financially dependent on their husbands.
Not so in the mountainous coffee growing region of Huye in Southern Rwanda. Here, close to 3000 women are growing and exporting their own 100 percent women’s coffee, getting better incomes and more financial independence as a result.
Angelique’s Finest is a Fairtrade certified coffee grown and processed entirely by women. The coffee is grown by 2,852 female farmers, who are members of six cooperatives. By taking charge of the production and processing, the women reap the proceeds of their work, earning 55 percent more per kilogram of coffee sold than if they sold the beans as green coffee.
Angelique’s Finest is named after Angelique Karekezi, Managing Director of RWASHOSCCO, a company owned by the cooperatives which organises the sale of the women’s coffee on the international market.
“Women can do anything that men can do. They only face structural barriers to do so,” says Angelique. By being members of the cooperatives and selling their coffee through RWAHOSCCO, the women can earn their own money and no longer have to depend on their husbands due to the better prices they earn. Being able to sell their own labelled coffee on the international market makes the women farmers very proud, she explains. “They identify even more with their product now”.
One of the women to benefit is Niragire Serapia. The 54 year old and mother of three children has been a member of Maraba cooperative since 2008. Through the extra money and the Fairtrade Premium she has been able to build her own house and offer her children a better quality of life. “Angelique’s Finest is the solution for me. It gives me money to pay school fees for my children, pay my health insurance, buy clothes, and be able to solve my family's problems.”
With 656 Fairtrade certified coffee organisations and women only making up 15 percent of their membership, it is critical for women to gain more opportunities to reap the economic benefits of the more than €90 billion coffee industry. The Fairtrade Standards include strong requirements on gender equality, and aim to enable more women and girls to access the benefits of Fairtrade. As part of our 2021-2025 global strategy, Fairtrade aims to increase women’s participation in cooperatives. One example is the Women’s Schools of Leadership, enabling women to learn business, negotiation and finance skills, and to take on leadership and committee roles within their cooperatives and communities.
Strong and independent cooperatives are also better placed to meet the needs of their customers and to sell their products on the global market. Since Angelique’s Coffee was first launched in 2018, the brand is going from strength to strength. This International Women’s Day, leading German retailer, dm-drogerie markt (DM) will promote the women’s coffee in their 800 stores (previously it was only available online).
“Seeing our coffee being sold on hundreds of store shelves is a dream come true!” Angelique says. “It is another milestone in the success story of our women-only brand on the German market and a victory in our continued struggle to ensure that the lives and livelihoods of our women farmers are changed for the better."
Angelique’s Coffee is sold in Germany through Kaffee Kooperative, based in Berlin and Kigali. The social business is formed on the tenants of revolutionising the coffee trade, with more value creation being shifted to the producers themselves.
See and hear more of the women’s stories on Instagram.