Supporting successful female entrepeneurs in Colombia's coffee value chain

Carola Schouten, Minister of Agriculture of the Netherlands, met with the Women Coffee Growers Association of West Huila (ASMUCAOCC) on a recent trip to Colombia. The cooperative, supported by Solidaridad and RGC Coffee, works to improve women’s participation in the coffee value chain. ASMUCAOCC, also known as ‘Las Rosas’, is one of the Sustainable Trade Platform’s (PCS) many partner organizations.

“Our lives are in the countryside and we want to stay on our farms. We want to grow our businesses to produce high quality coffee made by the hands of women: from the planting to the roasting”, says Nenfer Guzmán, a member of Las Rosas who shared her story with Minister Schouten.

Guzman was representing the 287 female members of the association who live in the municipality of La Plata, Huila. The members have managed to secure their families’ prosperity thanks to coffee and their ongoing hard work. Guzman said to the Minister Schouten: “we ask you to continue to support these female entrepreneurs. They are an example of what we are capable of after many years of struggle.”

On 30 November 2018, as part of her official visit, Minister Schouten met with six representatives and their families in the Huila Department in southwestern Colombia. During her visit she also participated in the Sustainable Trade Platform Forum in Bogotá and in a roundtable on sustainable palm oil.

“As you can imagine, I really like strong women. And what I see here are very strong women.”

I have a lot of respect for you, for what you do and how you bring your passion and knowledge to the next generation.

“I also think it’s very important that this is not only about growing coffee, but also processing the beans and selling them to the end consumers,” Minister Schouten added.


Las Rosas’ members offer Minister Schouten samples of products manufactured by the association

Aside from coffee, Las Rosas’ members offered the Minister samples of different products they manufacture to diversify their income: cookies, candies and desserts. Most of these women have struggled against gender barriers and stereotypes. Today, thanks to Solidaridad’s family-centred approach, their work is now better valued. Families who are members of the association have a higher net income as a result of the additional business.

Marisol Medina, another representative of the association, explained how this project involves collaboration with younger generations, such as her 19-year-old daughter, Mabel Dayana. Medina says:

We teach our children to love coffee and to love farming. The new generation wants to leave but we show them that there are plenty of business opportunities in the rural sector. Our coffee business is the best we can provide them with.

The ASMUCAOCC, created in 2012, aims to help women and families participate in the coffee supply chain. Today it produces more than 450,000 kilos of dry parchment coffee each year. Around 40% (between seven and 10 containers) is exported to Canada through RGC Coffee. Their coffee is branded as female-made coffee, providing them a higher price premium. They also sell finished products such as roasted and ground coffee, cookies and coffee-flavoured desserts in two regional stores owned by the women.

Solidaridad has supported these women and their families since 2016, along with other partners and with funding from the Dutch government. Access to credit and financial inclusion was a key focus in the support provided. A credit rotational fund now provides the women with access to low-interest credit. It has also provided financial education courses to improve knowledge of household management.

"Stay strong. We support this project not only for women, but for your families. And that's why it is important you do this work. Not only to help coffee production and trade, but also to preserve the social aspects of a farming business. We are committed to support your work”, concluded Minister Schouten.

(Left to right) Minister Schouten, Carlos Julio González, the Governor of Huila Department, and association representative Marisol Medina.

Read more about Solidariad's work in coffee

Read more about Minister Schouten's visit to Colombia