My name is Elena, and I am from the community of San Antonio located in the northeastern part of Peru. I am 49 years old.
I’ve been involved with the Cafe Femenino Women’s Group since very early on; I think the year was 2005. In 1982, my father gave me 3 hectares to farm. I was very grateful for that gift.
In 2004 when the Cafe Femenino organization formed, we as women coffee farmers became more organized. And by being a coffee producer, I was able to be a part of this group. All of a sudden, there were meetings and trainings and workshops.
I was not able to go at first. My husband would not allow it. But with time and patience, he began to see that these workshops would be good for me and the whole family. With time, he understood that by being a part of the coffee organization, I was required to attend business meetings just as he did. I learned so much at these meetings. I am thankful because I now have educational opportunities with the foundation’s workshops that I did not have before.
I love to learn. I never went to school because the closest school was 3.5 hours away walking one way. My father did not feel comfortable for me to go so I was not able to. My husband was only able to go to school for one year because his family came from a mountain town.
Instead of going to school, I stayed at home and helped my mother. Because of this, I am not able to read or write. This is why when the Café Femenino Foundation has a workshop or something to learn, I am always very, very excited. I love to learn. I love all the workshops and all the trainings. I am best at hands-on things because I cannot read, but the workshops are dynamic so that those who are like me can keep going. I always come home and teach my husband what I have learned. Occasionally, he has gone to meetings in my place so we don’t miss anything. We like it very much.
In 1982, my father gave me three hectares, and with this land, I am in charge of my own production. Since 2003, I’ve been a part of the coffee organization. With the Café Femenino Program, we are more organized now. We are getting more money for our harvest and now all my production is Café Femenino. I have about 30 quintales production.
Our women’s group meets every 2-3 months. Sometimes delegates will go so that they can distribute the information back to the other communities. We meet in a community space all together.
With the strengthening of our coffee organization with Café Femenino, I know I will get a consistent price and I know that I will have control over all that money. For me, that is huge.
Since Elena has been participated in all of the food security related trainings, she has begun growing her own food: yucca, plantains, pitucca, radishes, quinoa and kiwisha. With the information from the workshops, she knows how to incorporate these foods into the cooking she does for her children. Prior to receiving training, Elena reports that her children were malnourished. In 2010, she took them to a workshop where her children were weighed and measured. The nurses told her that they were too thin, underweight, and not healthy. Three years later, after her involvement and training in food security, her children were taken to one of this year’s workshops to be measured. There they were weighed and measured and reported to be perfectly healthy.
Patria is a member of the association called La Esperanza, which means "hope." She is a beneficiary of the project “La Chinola” (Passion Fruit) of the Café Femenino Foundation. In Patria’s words, the projects have been phenomenal and long lasting.
One thing about me is that in the past, I was very shy and timid. Thanks to the workshops and being associated in a program that prioritizes, I have become more comfortable expressing myself and working with others. This has helped me so much, and I am so grateful.
From the beginning of the project, I didn’t have as many obstacles as other women because my husband agreed to let me use a portion of the land to cultivate my coffee. Even though he gave me this portion of land, it benefits the whole family. This coffee belongs to Café Femenino, and the people realize that this coffee has been cultivated and harvested by women. It goes over international borders, as if it is a woman herself traveling abroad. I have been very happy being in this association because it gives we women our own identity.
The Café Femenino Foundation has been helping us in other products as well. For example, right now we’ve been struggling with the coffee rust, which has reduced our production in the Dominican Republic by more than 60%. But thanks to the workshops, we learned to cultivate chinola (passion fruit), which has had phenomenal results. The harvest for passion fruit lasts almost a year long, and from this continual harvest, we can take something for the household consumption.
Being a beneficiary of the chinola project, something that I have done with this project is to ensure that the other beneficiaries implement the project. When I realized the benefits that I gained, I wanted to ensure that the others would also receive this benefit. Sometimes, even though we have the knowledge, we are unable to implement it. The mutual support of being in the association pushes us to implement what we have learned.
Our family has three children and we had always lived on the income from just coffee. With all the new knowledge that we have, cultivating chinola, we have been able to send our children to college. I have one who graduated in teaching, and a daughter who is almost an engineer. This was done not through asking for money or anything, but through our own efforts. Because there was a time where the chinola would sell for cinco pesos. So through this additional income through the chinola, we were able to register even our youngest son in school.
We also grow mandarins, oranges, grapefruit and limes for our own consumption. All of these fruits and coffee are grown organically. We learned that organic coffee is the best tasting coffee, and it is the same with the fruits.
We give thanks to the people who, without knowing us, have offered their support. I give thanks from the bottom of my heart. I want other women whose children have goals, perhaps to be a doctor or whatever it be, to cultivate their own parcels of land and have the income to send their children to school.
The Café Femenino Program involves regular meetings among all of the members. This is where we support one another.
I live here in the community of San Antonio but I was born in Bagua Grande. I met my husband through my family and we moved to San Antonio 15 years ago. I've been involved with Cafe Femenino for 8 years. My husband was working for CECANOR cooperative as a driver and he heard about Cafe Femenino. He told me that I should go and find out about it. It has really benefited me because I now have my own coffee production. When my husband heard about what they were doing in our community, he thought I should be a women leader. I have become one of the five women leaders here in San Antonio. I was involved in coordinating the guinea pig breeding projects, quinoa, amaranth and the community gardens. Only the women who were in the Cafe Femenino organization were involved with coordinating the projects. We were responsible for managing them, but we always shared the products of the projects with the whole community. My husband and I work on other farms in the area to make money. We also sell guinea pigs, and vegetables. I hope to use my backyard to raise more guinea pigs to sell.
How has my community changed since receiving funds from the foundation? Well, the families here have changed. They now help each other. But the biggest change is with our husbands. Now we help each other more. He helps in the house now. He helps with cooking and cleaning and even with the children. Since Cafe Femenino, both the husbands and the wives have changed. Home is so much better now. I have 10 children, the youngest is 9 and the oldest is 31. I am 48 years old.
For me, the most challenging part of the change taken place is speaking and participating in events. At first it was difficult and I was scared, but now I’m the one who teaches other women. I train other women now. I also am a promoter so I go to meetings three times a year. The changes I see in myself are very positive. I now travel. I can grow and sell my own quinoa. With the extra money, I can buy clothing for my children. That makes me proud.
There are many more opportunities here in San Antonio now that Cafe Femenino has organized us and the projects have come in. All my children are educated and I know that the children of this community now and in the future are going to receive a much better education.
As far as changes for the future, I can see that the computers that the foundation brought will help us to grow and learn. Now that we have clean water from the water project a few years ago, the children don't get stomach sickness as much as before.
Some of the things that I would love to see happen in the future with Cafe Femenino is more health related projects like more breast and cervical cancer educational training. I like the glasses project that you brought to San Antonio. Now I can see what I sign. Also, the kitchen stove improvements project has been really beneficial.
I live in Penechi, which has 3,000 people. I became a part of Café Femenino in 2004, in the very beginning. In 2002 I joined ASPAPE the coffee association and then in 2004 I became a part of Café Femenino.
Besides Jesus, you people were the only ones who came in and helped us.
I’ve not received a stove but I have friends who have friends who have. I have the mold to made one, so someday I will.
I’ve learned that I have lots of resources right in my own land that I never know about before. I learned this in the food storage workshops. It was a good feeling to know that my land grows so much and I can use it.
I’m very thankful for the irrigation water project that the Foundation supported years ago. That really helped us to be able to produce coffee of good quality again. I am the Café Femenino coordinator for the women’s group and I am in charge of quality control. I am also a breastfeeding trainer in my community. I also preserve fruits and now I train others how to preserve their food. I love training other women about the things I learn.
One great thing that is happening now since we have learned about how to take better care of our health is that there is less monta blanca parasites that dig into the skin. There are injections and we learn how to use Vicks like deet to prevent that and denge.
I think the community sees the work that we are doing together with the Foundation as very good. They see how clean our houses are now. Before we used to have our things all over the place and now we know how to organize and clean our homes. Now everyone helps with the house work, the men and the children too. Before, the men would come home and just sleep but now they are helping to take care of the chores. They also do the cooking.
Before we organized our women’s group and learned from the cooperative, the men never picked up their children. I have five children and the oldest is 28. They were never picked up by my husband, their father. Now the new generation of men are helping with the children.
Wages are divided up now, men are helping in the home. We work together to buy the things now.
The coffee I sell to the cooperative gets a high price so now I have money to educate my children. Before, the children used to have to begin working at a very young age. Now we can make more money with our coffee so now my children are less sick. Three of my children are going to college. One is in business, another in agronomy, and another in engineering. My daughter has a 5 year old girl. She had her while in high school so I am raising her so that my daughter can finish school. Then she will start looking for work after she finishes school.
My role has changed now that I am more capable. I made sure that I educated my children. This was something that I learned I must do. People of my community come to me for help and advice. I help the sick people because I’ve been trained as a health promoter. I teach sex education at the school too. When someone comes to town, I am the contact person.
Life before Café Femenino was not good. I had no independence. I was never allowed to leave the house. All I could do was care for the children. The thing that changed that for me was the Café Femenino premium. It changed the economy of our home. The premium changed everything. I have freedom now. I can sew and cook for groups to make money. The ideas from the Café Femenino Foundation projects gave me ideas on how to create my own business so I could do more than only coffee production.
The opportunities for the next generation are great. Education will get them out. The neighbors will see this and do the same. As I do things, everyone else follows….I guess it is because I’m a leader!
Producing chinola, requires a lot of care, just like a family. There is a virus that attacks the plant, but there is a product to fight the virus. To begin you need start up costs to buy fencing, posts, staples, costs of maintenance, control erosion, and weeding costs. The plant requires much time and care. Coffee has more costs, while the chinola requires more time and followup.
2 women were direct beneficiaries of the chinola project. They had both produced chinola previously.
We plant the chinola, and fumigate it, and take care of it. The project gives money to buy the seeds. 5 tareas are needed to plant chinola. 1 tarea = 630 m2
It is possible to have a harvest of chinola twice a year, and small incremental pickings during the year.
Julia harvests twice a week, Monday and Thursday. Depending on the quantity harvested, the income varies. There is a main harvest in May and another one later in the year. One important thing is that the project taught her to save.
The cooperative supports a habit of savings, because the harvest is every 3 days. It is easy to consume that small amount of money, so it is important to save. In each association, there is a cooperative of savings, individual savings and community savings, that some can be a part of. They meet every 15 days to save in the cooperative. The savings is 50 individual, and 10 for a social fund that is used as a type of insurance for emergencies among group members. “Es chulisimo para nosotros!” Someone came to train them in 2013.
It functions as a community bank. They use passbooks for each member. There are 50 members (male and female) out of the association of 67 members. FondoAgro organized this project within the association.
They sell by millares (1,000 chinolas), currently at 3,000, pesos, which lowers to 2,000 during the harvest season. The price varies throughout the year, up to 5,000 at the maximum. Chinola supported the income lost from the poor coffee harvest. 25-26 millares per harvest. The plant can be reproduced in one year, if the soil is in good condition. With good maintenance, it can last five to six years. It requires 2 quintales of fertilizer (4,800 pesos annually), and fumigation every 15 -30 days. Have to have very careful care. 5,000 pesos for insecticide. *Note: this is NOT organic production.
She estimates that the investment for maintenance per year is 30,000 pesos and estimated revenues: 100,000 pesos annually (approx.), which is $2,324.00 per year. Estimated expenses: 30,000 pesos or $697.00. Average yearly increased income: 70,000 pesos, which is $1,527 per year increase!!
This past year, there was more income from chinola than from coffee.
One woman produces organically, but the rest produce with chemicals on parcels that are separate from their organic certified coffee. Internal discussion as to whether chinola can be produced organically – is more expensive. If there were a market for organic chinola, would produce it organically, but it is too expensive to produce organically and the local market doesn’t distinguish in prices.
There are 22 committee members of Café Femenino in the association.
Since the coffee production has decreased substantially last year, the women asked Maria Isabel if they could do the chinola project. 7 women were beneficiaries of this project.
Coffee harvest has decreased substantially: 35 libras por tarea (normalmente es un quintal por tarea). Average of 45 tareas of coffee per producer. 6,200 per quintal is the typical price. It is more expensive to produce coffee than chinola (requires more inputs). Only sells by millares, no one is doing added value sale (juice etc). They consume the chinola juice, and save the money they would have spent on the fruit juice.
There are 50 women members of the Café Femenino women’s association of Fedecares. It was founded with 25 women in 2006. The group meets monthly. They also do field visits. Each month they make their monthly work plan. Over 80% of the participants are married. The resources that the women bring to the family support the husband as well, which is why they are okay with their wives being in this program. Some women already had land, but the women who didn’t have land, the husband gave the woman 10 tareas. Some women had their own land from their parents, and in that case, both are members of the association. The difference is that through the women’s association, they learned how to take care of the land, negotiate prices with workers, and manage the harvest. They have developed leadership skills to be more assertive managers of their land. For example, the workers might say that they want to leave at 2, but I can say, no, you need to finish weeding here and you’ll leave when you are done.
The participation of the women is very active in the group. The coffee rust has brought them closer together to work to combat it and find alternatives. We have to support one another. Seeing demonstrative plots of healthy coffee with different organic pesticides has been motivational. What they need is investment to be able to produce more chinola.
Change that is seen in gender equality over time: Men are living more comfortably now, because women are doing more, in the house and also in the field. We are taken more seriously, we are more recognized, because the men see us more. We’ve seen a change. Women have more freedom to make decisions. There is more communication because they are working together. Also, since the woman also manages her own farm, she doesn’t always have time to bring food to the man in the field. Some men are learning to cook, and they cook well. “The first person to arrive home, cooks.”
This change has come about due to the organization of the women, and working together in the association. Women and men have the same rights within the association, which shows the value of women.
Before, the projects in the association were only for men, not for women. The Café Femenino Foundation has allowed for projects directly for women, allowed for the women to gain money in the household, so the value and role of women improved.
My husband and I worked exclusively in coffee. There weren’t any extra funds for the house, clothing, shoes. The woman would 'ratonear,' pick up the crumbs that were left. Things changed when the woman had income, especially when the coffee harvest dropped. Now the men were looking for clothing, etc, from the women. There have been a number of additional, previous projects through the association that helped contribute to this.
Challenges: Chinola virus that requires constant fumigation. 4 years ago, there was a climate change that brought a lot of this virus. Other producers are not growing chinola as often. The input prices have increased significantly. Wind, hurricanes affect their cultivation and blow down the fences/installation for the chinola.
The overall numbers of families that participate in the association have decreased. This is due to displacement from dams built in the early 1990s. There are two large dams for electricity, and many families were displaced since their lands were flooded. Their new homes were built far away on poor lands. These were built in the early 90's. The women who were displaced are organized in their new communities as well.
The association is the strongest organizational force in the municipality. 3 women have leadership positions in the direction of the association. In the committees, there are more women who assume leadership roles by representing their families. This was not seen previously. Now the woman can represent her family in the association, whereas previously it was only the man.