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CARE celebrates International Coffee Day

Scenic photo of mountains covered in green vegetation with clouds above

Seen here in Ecuador, the slopes of South America’s Andes mountains form one of the world’s most productive coffee-growing regions. Photo: Peter Caton/CARE

Seen here in Ecuador, the slopes of South America’s Andes mountains form one of the world’s most productive coffee-growing regions. Photo: Peter Caton/CARE

With roughly three billion cups enjoyed around the world every day, coffee is the planet’s second-most popular beverage – behind only water. Coffee farming forms an important part of the economy in many of the countries where CARE works, where women compose some 70 percent of the workforce and operate between 20 and 30 percent of the farms.

And yet, according to the International Coffee Organization, the same issues affecting other agricultural sectors also affect coffee farms. Across the board, women have less access to land, to credit, and to the information needed to make their businesses successful. According to the ICO’s report on gender equality: “This often results in a measurable gender gap in economic outcomes, including yields, productivity, and farm income.”

According to research by CARE and others, when gender gaps like these are closed, families, communities, and entire countries benefit.

On Oct. 1, International Coffee Day, CARE celebrates the people supplying the beverage that enables so many to face their days with renewed energy, while continuing to call for equality and empowerment for the women doing the majority of the work.

Growing coffee plant in the foreground, woman in the background with hands on plant
Photo: Nancy Farese/CARE

Step 1: grow beans to ideal ripeness

Elba Rosaura Rubio Turcios, photographed on Jan. 22, 2019, is a 38-year-old mother of three and the manager and the owner of Finca Piedra Portillo in San José La Paz, Honduras. She made a living selling tamales on the town plaza before saving enough money to buy this farm with her family. Here, she inspects beans for quality.

Step 2: select only the best beans to harvest

Elba examines coffee “cherries” for ripeness as well as suitability in planting new coffee trees. (Coffee beans are actually the pits of coffee cherries.) A dark-red color is the most suitable both for harvest and for propagation. Photo: Nancy Farese/CARE
Members of the Ara Tay Coffee Cooperative work in their facility sorting coffee beans in Son La, Vietnam, in May 2023. Ara Tay is a coffee production cooperative headed by a Thai ethnic woman in Son La. These 14 farmers (12 women) have developed a whole new brand, calling it “Ara Tay Coffee.” Since then, their methods have changed completely. Now, instead of mass-picking all the beans, they only select the very best fruits. They have also improved the way they clean, package, and transport the beans. While it requires more time and labor, this new way of farming coffee improves not only the product’s quality but also the farmers’ income. Photo: Laura Noel/CARE
Man and woman outdoors spread beans on a white surface
Photo: Douglas Diave/CARE

Step 3: dry the beans you have harvested (then roast)

Dorcas, a CARE project participant in Goroka, Papua New Guinea, helps her husband David dry coffee beans in February 2021. “I am a housewife and I help my husband work our coffee plots to help get income for our family… The land is fertile so if we plant anything it grows well.”

Dorcas credits the project for expanding her vision for the kinds of work she could do. “For instance, coffee is seen as a male’s job,” she said “I didn’t know I could help my husband do coffee jobs — like digging drainage or doing skirting of the trees and pruning them. I used to think that these jobs were for males only. When I got this training, I saw that when I helped my husband it made things easier for the both of us. We work together and accomplish a lot.”

Two women in traditional dress and high hair buns spread beans on a flat surface
Photo: Laura Noel/CARE

Members of the Ara Tay Cooperative in Vietnam spread out harvested beans for drying.

Woman leans over to inhale the aroma from a row of full coffee cups
Photo: Nancy Farese/CARE

Step 4: inspect the finished product for quality

Photographed in 2019, Zoila Moreno, an agronomist engineer, sets a standard for the highest quality coffee in Marcala, La Paz, Honduras as manager of DO (Denomination of Origin) for her farm. Zoila is a multigenerational coffee farmer, inspired by her mother who ran the farm, then taking over the management of the family farm beginning at age 11. She is inspired by the words of her father: “Support yourself and don’t depend on a man, so that you don’t have to put up with anyone else’s crap.”

A woman indoors pouring coffee from an insulated container while looking at camera
Photo: Terhas Berhe/CARE

Step 5: enjoy!

Tibelet Fikadu, a savings group member in Ethiopia, pours a round of steaming, bracing local coffee for a gathering

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