Caroline’s smile is contagious. In the village of Setek in Kenya, she and her husband work as coffee farmers. Something they have been proudly doing for over 10 years. The same applies to many of Caroline’s friends, and people in their community.
And yet, there are other expectations where she lives. In the Nandi culture, married women are expected to become mothers. Caroline would like to, and yet is currently not able to, which weighs on her. This is also received with mixed emotions in her village, where people sometimes even make fun of her. Other people though are extremely supportive. Times are changing.
It is also in this location where the Women in Coffee programme takes place, designed for them to have more financial independence, gain farming skills, and a stronger voice. In similar fashion as many attendee’s express how the role of women has shifted and push for change, Caroline also encourages women to not be ashamed of who they are and speak up about their problems.
The arrival of Covid-19 though means group meetings have to cease, and coffee has gone to waste. Still, their drive carries on.
About the Kapkiyai Cooperative
The Kapkiyai Multipurpose Cooperative Society Limited Cs was founded in 2000 with 12 members, and they have now grown to over 600. It is located in the county of Nandi, and they want to become the best coffee producing society in their location, while still offering excellent services to their members. It is home to the Women in Coffee Programme, established through the support of Fairtrade Africa and yielding the Specialty Zawadi brand.
The life of coffee farmers
‘Coffee is great’ expresses Caroline with a lot of joy. Much work goes into it every day, from weeding to harvesting, and both her and Nahashon (her husband) work as partners in their coffee fields.
Traditionally, women did not always reap the benefits of coffee fields, as typically men owned the land and were often the only ones represented at governance levels in cooperatives. And still, they did much of the work.
The project Women in Coffee seeks to have women develop their skills, learn new practices, earn an individual income, and ultimately shift perceptions among communities.
‘All the money belonged to the men. Women worked hard but got nothing in return’ says Caroline Arusai, Cooperative Secretary, Women in Coffee.
With over 325 members, the programme has been a game changer for many women who now own their coffee bushes, receiving a direct payment from what they reap. In addition, they are trained on how to grow more of coffee, of better quality. Production has now increased from 2 to 4 kilograms per tree.
Meet the local film maker
Nyokabi Kahura is a freelance photographer from Kenya with over 10 years of working experience. She has done productions for several organizations spanning different countries including Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Somalia, Central African Republic, Nigeria, Madagascar, Malawi, Tanzania, Sudan, Madagascar, Kenya, Zambia, Cameroon, Mozambique among others. She has extensive experience in writing human interest/change stories.
Supporting Farmers in Kenya
Kenya has been heavy hit by the pandemic. Immediate relief measures were critical in order to mitigate any potential loss of income for farmers, while still keeping them safe when at work.
At the same time, it is also key to look ahead, and see what long-term measures can be applied for farmers and workers to better navigate the economic consequences still fully unknown.
At Fairtrade we established two funds in 2020 in order to address both aspects.
24 producer organisations in Kenya are now making use of them, which has positively impacted over 15,800 people.
For more information about Fairtrade and Covid-19 activities, please visit the dedicated webpage.