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Coffee Industry Support Project

The Coffee Industry Support Project works with industry stakeholders to improve women’s meaningful participation in the coffee industry, to increase women’s access to and control over income from coffee, and to use learning about women’s empowerment in the coffee industry to inform industry-wide strategies and policies.


In the coffee-producing Highlands of Papua New Guinea, communities remain poor and semi-subsistent, despite the national importance of coffee as a major export commodity. The gender wage gap is estimated to be 23%. This means that women earn 77% of what men earn, though these figures understate the real extent of gender pay gaps, particularly in developing countries where informal self-employment is prevalent. CARE International began the Coffee Industry Support Project in 2013 to target female farmers’ economic and social well-being in the Eastern Highlands. The project works with key coffee stakeholders to change the way they do business.


  • Spread CARE’s expertise: So far, CARE has provided Gender Equity and Diversity (GED) training for six of the major coffee companies in Papua New Guinea. Several have now adopted key modules into their own trainings and HR processes.
  • Make the business case: Companies did not see the relevance of women’s empowerment to them, so CARE provided GED training to start the conversation. The training was given in the context of getting a more sustainable and reliable value chain for companies. CARE also runs Family Business Management Training with partners, teaching them how to train their registered farmers.
  • Use good gender analysis: The project builds on the knowledge that women are providing 60% of the labor for coffee production but are earning less than a third of the profits. Without incentive, women won’t adopt time-intensive practices to create higher-quality coffee. Using this information, CARE convinced companies to start investing in women.

of labor for coffee production is provided by women

of labor for coffee production is provided by women

Women earn less than a third of the profits for coffee production


In view of its positive reviews and tangible success, the Australian Government gave the Coffee Industry Support Project a 1.5-year extension. Through the project, CARE continued to collect evidence to build the business case that gender equality leads to better results for the private sector as well as benefits for families.

Program achievements

  • Companies have revolutionized the way they think: One woman in a partner company told us, “It’s changed the way we think as professionals and as individuals. As professionals it’s changed how we discuss and problem-solve together as a functioning team … I am more confident that women can succeed here. As individuals it has changed the way we interact with each other – I see the young men in my team conversing with ease with women in administration or finance whereas before they would not speak to each other.”
  • Companies have changed their behavior: One of CARE’s partners has started rearranging their extension sessions – both the setup and the timing – to make sure that women can participate. Extension agents are now focusing on working with men and women together. Many of the partners are also getting CARE’s help to conduct gender audits and are adopting better HR policies to get women involved.
  • Women’s participation has increased: Women’s participation in coffee-related extension services has risen from less than 5% to between 33% and 55%.

Participation of women in coffee services has risen from <5% to 33-55%

  • There are more opportunities for women: Partner companies have agreed to implement internship programs where they specifically recruit and train female extension agents – something they have never done before.
  • Household relationships have improved: Changes between men and women in the household are beginning to emerge. There have been more discussions between couples about how to spend money, and more sharing of household labor.