Innovative Cross-Sector Partnership Connects Women to New Job Opportunities and Skills
On February 18 and 19, Sustainable Harvest Inc., through its nonprofit entity, Relationship Coffee Institute, will launch its Rwanda operation with the first Let’s Talk Coffee Rwanda event, convening in partnership with Women for Women International (WfWI). Sustainable Harvest’s relationship coffee initiative in Rwanda is funded by a three-year grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Among the goals of the initiative is to create economic opportunities in the Rwandan coffee trade for women entering the job market with new skills. Let’s Talk Coffee Rwanda will further that effort by convening more than 150 female farmers, roasters, retailers, NGOs, and senior government officials to discuss challenges and strengthen opportunities for smallholder farmers to make connections in the value chain.
“Relationships are critical to the future of specialty coffee,” notes David Griswold, president and founder of Sustainable Harvest. “We must work collaboratively to address the challenges smallholder women farmers face. Let’s Talk Coffee Rwanda offers a unique forum for fostering these conversations.”
Let’s Talk Coffee Rwanda will introduce female farmers enrolled in WfWI’s life-skills training program to all aspects of the value chain, not just in coffee but in mushroom and honey production as well. The two-day program and networking event will be held at WfWI’s Women’s Opportunity Center in Kayonza District, a training and convening space designed to intentionally cultivate networking, education, and economic development. WFWI has received support from Bloomberg Philanthropies since 2008. The program has enrolled and trained more than 96,000 women in 4 countries, including more than 30,000 in Rwanda alone.
“In Rwanda, women have become a driving economic force,” observes Afshan Khan, president and CEO of WfWI. “Our goal is to foster partnerships that maximize opportunities for women enrolled in our program to learn new skills, access jobs and connect to new global markets so they can thrive financially, contributing to their families and ultimately creating a more stable, prosperous future.”
In keeping with this vision, Let’s Talk Coffee will feature both interactive training sessions along with leaders from the United States and Rwanda participating in panel discussions and presentations on ways to overcome barriers to increase the engagement and close the distance between producers, distributors, and retailers.
“Through understanding and awareness of what the marketplace is demanding, and by hearing directly from those in the business, we empower women farmers to see new ways to increase incomes,” says Esther Mukundane, country director of Sustainable Harvest-Rwanda, a local NGO formed by Sustainable Harvest Inc. to provide livelihoods training for women in collaboration with WfWI and the Government of Rwanda.
Among the speakers at the event will be Grace Hightower De Niro, who launched the coffee company Grace Hightower & Coffees of Rwanda in 2013 to improve the lives of Rwandan people by promoting their coffee worldwide. She will address the women attendees as a lunchtime keynote speaker and will also take part in a panel on the role of the private sector in raising incomes and improving lives.
Let’s Talk Coffee is a key component of Sustainable Harvest’s Relationship Coffee Model. This responsible sourcing initiative increases value through the supply chain by investing in growers and providing training and infrastructure at origin to deliver the highest-quality product to buyers around the world.
About Sustainable Harvest
Sustainable Harvest is a B Corporation that delivers high-quality, award-winning coffees sourced from Latin America and East Africa to customers ranging from large retailers to boutique roasters, including Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Ben & Jerry’s, Allegro/ Whole Foods Markets, Cafe Mystique, Cafe Moto, Blue Bottle, Colectivo (formerly Alterra), Dillanos, Water Avenue, and many others. Working with 200,000 specialty coffee smallholder farmers from 15 countries in Latin America and East Africa, Sustainable Harvest improves the lives of coffee growers by conducting trainings focused on specialty and sustainable growing methods, leveraging technology, and creating links with top coffee roasters and retailers. Sustainable Harvest is one of the INC 5000 fastest-growing private coffee companies for the past five years and was selected at the G20 Mexico Summit in 2012 as a winner of the IFC Inclusive Business Award.
For more information, visit http://www.sustainableharvest.com/
About Women for Women International
Since 1993, Women for Women International (WfWI) has provided women survivors of war, civil strife, and other conflicts with resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency. WfWI delivers these resources through a tiered, yearlong program that begins with direct financial aid and emotional support. Participants also learn about their legal rights; receive life-skills training such as health awareness, numeracy, budgeting and saving, decision-making and negotiation, and civic participation; learn business and vocational skills; and gain access to incomegenerating activities where they can apply those skills and begin moving toward economic stability. Along with helping more than 407,000 women in the past 20 years to rebuild their own lives and those of their families and communities after war, WfWI uses its voice to call global attention to the unique role that women play in advancing peace throughout society. WfWI works in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Sudan.
For more information, visit: www.womenforwomen.org