Esperanza Dionisio, the General Manager of the Pangoa coffee cooperative in Peru, is named the first Sustainability Champion by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA).

Every year SCA promotes sustainability in the coffee industry with its Sustainability Awards. Last year, Twin was thrilled to win the sustainable business category.

The Sustainability Champion is a new category in this year’s awards to honour the work and impact of an individual in the coffee sector. Twin has worked with Esperanza for many years and witnessed her passion and commitment to sustainability and the members of Pangoa so nominated her for this accolade.

Twin has bought coffee from Pangoa since 2004 and delivered projects with brands like Taylors of Harrogate and Marks & Spencer.

Esperanza is incredibly forward-thinking: her vision is of producing coffee that doesn’t damage the environment. She encourages farmers to develop their land to include other products for personal consumption and for sale at a newly formed ‘Women’s Organic Market, such as honey and vegetables. In addition to providing households with a more nutritious diet, additional sources of income for when coffee prices are low, this also helps the ecosystem by encouraging bees and birds.

With an education in agriculture, Esperanza understands climate-smart farming and agroforestry. She shows farmers that incorporating other species helps support the natural cycle of life, improves the quality of coffee and protects farmers against severe weather conditions caused by climate change. Her goal is to encourage farmers to move away from only growing cash crops by having a more holistic approach.

When she took over as General Manager, Esperanza inherited significant debt and problems with technical equipment. But she gradually built up the organisation from the bottom up- strengthening it by uniting the farmers and creating a community. She demonstrated how higher quality coffee translated into higher prices. Under her superb leadership, Pangoa is now the leading exporter of Fairtrade and Organic certified coffee in Peru.

In 1997, Esperanza set up a women’s association. She was concerned about the stigma around gender in her community and was determined to promote women’s leadership and empowerment. And so, the Women’s Committee of Pangoa Cooperative (CODEMU) was formed. More than 20 years later, the association has 150 members.

CODEMU trains women in business management and leadership. It offers female farmers access to a small credit fund, to invest in their land, or buy more coffee trees. Moreover, the introduction and sales of a specific Women’s coffee, that attracts a premium from international buyers, has given female producers economic empowerment and a financial incentive to take ownership of their coffee.

Twin is thrilled that Esperanza has been named the first ever Sustainability Champion. She is a worthy winner and one of a kind. Twin offers congratulations to the other award winners:

Project winner: “Mainstreaming biodiversity conservation and climate resilience at Yayu Biosphere Reserve” by Union Hand-Roasted Coffee

Business Model winner: Agricafe.