Although women provide up to 70% of the labour in East African coffee production, their work often goes unrecognised and unfairly rewarded. East African cooperatives also struggle to break into competitive speciality markets, despite enjoying ideal conditions for growing quality coffee. To tackle this, Twin has partnered with seven East African cooperatives across four countries (Rwanda, DRC, Uganda and Malawi) to develop a holistic project that encompasses quality, financial management, governance, certification, marketing and sustainable agriculture with gender as a cross-cutting theme.

Women’s empowerment

At the start of the project, a comprehensive gender assessment was conducted to inform the development of tailor-made gender programmes in partnership with each cooperative. At the household level, projects will be designed to facilitate women’s access to assets (including land), support their earning capability, and promote joint decision-making in the home. At the organisational level, gender policies and female leadership programmes will be developed and at the market level, ‘women’s coffee’ offers will be developed and promoted. The project will also advocate for the rights of women farmers to the coffee industry. 

Breaking into speciality markets

Not only is consistently high-quality coffee and a high standard of service expected in speciality markets, East Africa is little-known by buyers as a quality coffee origin. To address both the production and market challenges, this five-year project aims to build an alliance of strong East African organisations to establish a presence in high-value speciality markets. The aim is to raise standards across the board, while playing particular attention to priority areas at each organisation and ensuring progress is inclusive of women. The alliance will also support cross-learning between organisations to transfer skills from established to new cooperatives.

Project overview:

  • Gender justice: gender assessments and development of ‘four-level’ gender programme, including testing viability of women’s coffee proposition

  • Quality: quality fund to improve infrastructure, such as washing stations and cupping labs, and improvements to quality management systems

  • Sustainable agriculture: environmental assessments, certification and climate learning groups for producer organisations

  • Business management: access to finance and business systems

  • Governance: emphasis on meaningful participation of women at all management levels

  • Market access: certification, accompanying producer organisations to trade fairs, including AFCA and SCAA, and market intelligence and support through the Joint Marketing Initiative (JMI)

  • Advocacy: raising awareness of the vital role of women farmers in the coffee sector and promoting support and investment from businesses

Reach: 25,000 smallholder farmer members of Mzuzu (Malawi), Muungano, Kawa Maber (DRC), Kopakama (Rwanda), Gumutindo, Bukonzo Joint and Bukonzo Organic (Uganda)