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Gender Equity in the Cool Farm Tool Pilot Project

Author: Nora Burkey, Founder and Executive Director of The Chain Collaborative

Digital tools can support actors in the coffee value stream to collect important data about their work and practices, but not everyone is able to access and benefit from solutions equally. One of the goals of Cooperatives Coffees’ Cool Farm Tool Pilot Project is not only increasing farmer access to the tool—but doing so in an equitable way. That’s why the gender analysis of this project, completed by project partner, The Chain Collaborative (TCC), is critical.

There is a positive correlation between female membership and female employment within partner cooperatives. With more female members, there are more female employees, and with a greater number of female employees, there are a greater number of women in positions of leadership. Many of Coop Coffees’ producer partners have worked hard to increase women’s participation over the years, which has brought about an increase in women’s programs.

Of course, gender equity must ensure that all programs are able to reach both men and women equally. So, what does this look like with carbon programs?

Gender-Related Considerations for the Cool Farm Tool Pilot Project
The Cool Farm Tool Pilot Project team, especially cooperative leaders, carefully considered gender equity when selecting participating producers to take part in the first rounds of data collection. They also focused on choosing producers who have demonstrated best practices to date, so that they could serve as examples to other farmers. Because women across the coffee industry have less access to training and resources than their male counterparts—causing male farmers to sometimes “outperform” female farmers due to their disproportionate access to resources and training—specific emphasis was placed on ensuring women farmers were involved. This is one best practice recommended by TCC that was taken up throughout the project.

Regardless of the gender of the farmer who holds the land title, coffee is a family affair, and women in particular play key productive roles on any farm. They typically control the early stages of production, like planting and harvesting—this is in addition to their long hours working inside the home. Men, on the other hand, are typically in charge of coffee marketing and transport. The Cool Farm Tool gathers information about activities from seed to transport, making it critical that all family members are involved in the process. TCC recommended that all family members participate in the project’s training sessions. To assure that women are able to attend, in person, requires a focus on timing sessions appropriately, providing childcare, and ensuring women are specifically invited to engage and share their voices.

Having perspectives from the whole family improves data collection, but it also contributes to the cooperatives’ inclusion goals. Many of the partners involved in the project want to better recognize women’s work in the value chain. By collecting data about which farm activities sequester more carbon and estimating whether those activities are more controlled by women versus men, Coop Coffees can also assess the extent to which women in particular are the bigger drivers of environmental services. As was noted by TCC, this has exciting implications for carbon premium payments and requires deep consideration.

What’s Next?
With the Cool Farm Tool Pilot Project, we are measuring important gender implications to carbon work. We know that in the coffee sector, there are disparities between male and female-owned farms regarding their access to land, inputs, information, transportation, decision making, income, and more. We also know these disparities impact productivity levels, resilience to climate change, and ability to access markets. The Cool Farm Tool can go beyond sharing information on carbon emission and sequestration; it may also be able to tell us whether women are taking the most action possible to ensure environmental and eco-systems services. Understanding these distinct contributions is critical for any company that is building equitable policy around carbon premium payments.

Coop Coffees is now working on methodologies to reward farmers for their carbon capture. As more information is shared about this in the coming months, you will also learn how, together with the cooperative partners, Coop Coffees is leveraging these payments to further recognize women’s contributions to coffee. The goal is to ensure that women are fully aware of ways to improve and showcase their environmental work in order to increase productivity, resilience, and market access. To read more of TCC’s gender-related recommendations for the Cool Farm Tool Pilot Project, click here.

Photo: Miriam Elizabeth Pérez, Finca Clave de Sol, Honduras
Miriam Elizabeth Pérez, a participating producer in the project, is a third generation coffee farmer who has been producing coffee for over 20 years. She has also become an outspoken advocate of gender equality in the coffee industry.

DISCLAIMER: *In TCC’s report for the Cool Farm Tool Pilot Project, they used the terms woman and female interchangeably, stating that Gender and Development (GAD) prioritizes the study of diverse socio-cultural gender norms associated with men and women. The focus of GAD remains not on challenging the gender binary, but on understanding gender roles and relations between men and women specifically, and their impact on livelihood development, socio-economic outcomes, and other goals. As such, TCC noted that though their report used female and woman interchangeably, reflecting the GAD approach, they did not intend for it to subscribe to the gender binary or reject the existence of gender fluidity.

**All the data collected for TCC’s gender report was obtained and shared with permission from the participating cooperatives.