Peoples Coffee

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Some of the members of the CMM group in Huehuetenango

We are very proud to be introducing a special new single origin this month. ‘Cafe Feminino’, from the Cafe con Manos de Mujer branch of the ASOBAGRI cooperative in Guatemala’s Huehuetenango region has a very particular point of difference, and if you speak Spanish you’ll know it already.

Cafe con Manos de Mujer (CMM) translates to “Coffee grown by the Hands of Women”. Or, as Google translate put it: “coffee with woman hands”.

Guatemala has endured a civil war of nearly forty years, with a coup d’etat in the 1980’s securing military rule, and a resulting campaign of widespread violence against any perceived dissidents. Many men were killed, and between .5 and 1.5million political refugees fled to the United States. There are a lot of women in Guatemala who have been widowed by the conflict, or whose partners are still in the US. Emigration continues, now more economically motivated, and remittance inflows make up Guatemala’s primary source of foreign income. Guatemala’s main exports are bananas, sugar, and coffee, but as we know these are commodities vulnerable to price shocks, and their terms of trade tend to be controlled by foreign buyers.

Huehuetenango, Guatemala

As of 2011 54% of Guatemala’s population were living below the international poverty line. Rural women are a particularly vulnerable group, and are more likely to fall below the poverty line than men, or their urban counterparts. This is due in part to a lack of educational and economic opportunities available to rural women. UNESCO estimates that 31% of Guatemalan women are illiterate. Women are more likely to engage in unpaid work, including household maintenance and childcare, and a 2010 study estimated that this work was equivalent to 30% of GDP – highlighting an opportunity cost: Women are both time poor and income poor in Guatemala.

Enabling women to participate more actively in agricultural production will not only benefit women and girls, but the economy as a whole. Women represent an untapped resource, and helping them to gain the tools to enter into business will have significant impact on community development and poverty reduction in rural areas.

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Angelena Berna Berramos, a member of CMM, traveled 4 hours to meet our visitors

ASOBAGRI cooperative has recognised this need, and offered their support to single female coffee entrepreneurs, in the form of micro loans and training.  Our Head Roaster Rene, General Manager Liv, and Trade Aid’s Justin Purser visited Huehuetenango during last year’s harvest to meet the women of CMM, and to show their support for the project. Meeting the women in person and hearing their stories was memorable and moving, and the beginning of what we hope will be a long-standing relationship.

Sebastiana Martinez Gomez is a CMM entrepreneur who recounted her story to Rene, Liv and Justin:

“ASOBAGRI has educated us in how to plant seedlings, and told us of the need to keep improving and increasing. Traditionally we would just plant the seeds in the ground but the trainers taught us a better technique. How to use terraces, how to compost, to grow under shade and to pick the red cherries. This is a lot of work but we have to increase the price of coffee through quality of yield. I have five children, I teach them this work so they can have an income.”

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Sebastiana Martinez Gomez, on her coffee farm, with one of her five children

Sebastiana’s husband died trying to carry coffee across a nearby river. The river is dangerous, but the producers have to cross it, and the community hopes to build a bridge through the ASOBAGRI programme.

Sebastiana picks coffee from 6am-3pm every day during the harvest. Then she has to sort it, depulp, and ferment. She has other jobs to do as well; at 4am she grinds the corn for the day’s tortillas. She also sees to the chooks, and the bulls. She doesn’t have electricity so in the evenings she processes her coffee by candlelight.

“Good quality requires hard work. Please share our stories in your country. It is very hard to get ahead of subsistence life.”

ASOBAGRI sacks ready for export

ASOBAGRI believes that producing good quality, fair trade certified coffee is one important step in the process of bringing income above subsistence levels. And we can certainly attest to the quality of the coffee. Rene describes it as “A strong full bodied single origin espresso with rich dark malts and barley overtones.” So when you’re enjoying a cup of Cafe Feminino, you can also enjoy the knowledge that it is a contribution to the economic independence and development of hard working Guatemalan businesswomen, including Sebastiana. Expertly roasted Cafe Feminino can be bought from our webshop, or sampled at the Constable Street Cafe. It’s perfect for espresso, but also makes a lovely plunger or filter brew.

Trying out the new coffee at the roastery

Cafe Feminino sample at the PC Roastery this week


October 22nd, 2014


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