In 2005, a group of six women members of the CESMACH co-op, all of whom managed and worked their own farms, banded together in an effort to integrate more of the co-op’s women members into educational workshops about coffee cultivation, and to highlight the contributions these women were making to the management and labor on their family farms while their husbands, many of which had emigrated to the U.S.A., held the title of CESMACH “member” on paper. They realized that in order to create more equity among the group and to empower these women in farm-leadership roles, this practice had to change.
By 2006, the grassroots group had grown to 23 women who had begun to formalize their memberships with CESMACH, becoming more involved in the cooperative and selling their coffee as “Café Feminino,” a mark indicating that it was produced by women smallholders.
In 2011, Café Imports green buyer Piero Cristiani was sourcing coffees in Mexico through our producer partners at CESMACH and saw that there were a considerable number of women producers dropping off coffee for processing. On the heels of the success of our Women Coffee Producer program coffee with CODECH in Guatemala, Piero presented the program to CESMACH, proposing that coffee from individual women producers are kept separate. The creation of the women’s lot incorporates a price premium, which is paid for those coffees in an effort to support these women who, more often than not, are single parents providing for their families.
This program was initiated, and coffees contributed by the women producers of CESMACH was kept separate for the 2012 harvest. The CESMACH Women Coffee Producer offerings comprise hand-picked and sorted coffees grown on farms that average 4 hectares or less. There are 32 communities represented by these coffees, from the municipalities of Ángel Albino Corzo, La Concordia, Montecristo de Guerrero, and Siltepec.
The 2014 premium went toward the construction of vegetable gardens. Recently, Silvia Roblero, who helps manage the women producers at CESMACH, said she hopes to start investing the premium into women’s health programs, as the production volume continues to grow. Because of the high prevalence of cervical cancer in the community, a health initiative became a focus among the group to prevent and combat the disease. The women behind Cafe Feminino wanted to take care of mothers, recognizing that they hold the families together. The women, in partnership with Grounds For Health, were ultimately able to provide examinations for over 500 women. Today, the co-op boasts 224 women members: Some are widows, some are private landowners themselves, and some have partners and husbands that have emigrated for other work opportunities. As the representation of the women in co-op, one women producer is on CESMACH’s board of directors. This is a massive step toward increased empowerment for women, especially in Mexico—a place with traditionallymachistaculture. The CESMACH Women Producers are not just looking to produce just any coffee grown by women, they also adhere to CESMACH’s quality standards and are pushing for that perfect cup. The story to tell isn’t only one of women rising up together to improve their lives and the lives of others; it is also a story of passion and love. These women have been working with coffee for most of their lives. They understand its viability, the need for focused labor, and the importance of management in terms of both time and money.