The Partnership for Gender Equity’s latest research explores engaging the next coffee generation

By: Kimberly Easson, The Partnership for Gender Equity

The Partnership for Gender Equity (PGE) is dedicated to unlocking the potential of coffee-farming women and their families. A collaborative research and development initiative founded by Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) in 2014, PGE seeks to promote equitable opportunities that allow coffee communities to thrive, as well as catalyze action in the coffee industry to create a more inclusive supply chain.

Since our founding, one of PGE’s main areas of focus has been conducting targeted research to better understand gender inequity and other issues in coffee-producing communities, study their impact on coffee businesses, and communicate our findings to provide the coffee industry with recommendations for action. We achieved this task with our first comprehensive piece of research, The Way Forward: Accelerating Gender Equity in the Coffee Value Chain, published in 2015. This document became a widely used tool for many coffee-sector businesses and informed their investment decisions around gender-focused programs in coffee-producing communities.

In recent years, we have been steadily working on our next round of research, titled The Way Forward: Engaging the Next Coffee Generation. This research came about as we recognized that in addition to gender inequity, another critical issue impacting coffee-producing families and communities is the out-migration of youth from rural areas and the aging population of coffee farmers.

Just as we did with the first installment of The Way Forward, we are taking a four-stage approach to our new research initiative. The first step, which we recently completed, was undertaking a comprehensive literature review on the generational constraints facing farming families globally. We are currently in the second stage of the research: conducting participatory workshops and focus groups in coffee-producing communities to discuss, assess, and confirm findings from the desk review. In the final two stages of the research, which will begin in March 2019, we will complete a current practice review to understand existing initiatives that engage youth in the value chain, and conduct interviews with industry stakeholders to validate the viability of our recommended actions.

During the second stage, we plan to conduct at least six community workshops in total. We recently completed the first two—one in Masaka town, Uganda, and the other in Kericho town, Kenya, with 38 people participating in each session. The workshops confirmed much of what we had learned during our literature review. For example, existing research has indicated that the older generation is often reluctant to pass on land to their youth, as they fear the youth will sell it. During our discussions in both Kenya and Uganda, elder participants confirmed this belief.

However, we also encountered some surprises during the workshops that leant new depth to our research. Youth in both workshops indicated their parents were not passing on their knowledge of coffee farming to them and their siblings. While we found that youth, broadly, lacked skills and access to training during our literature review, there was no research on family and generational dynamics having contributed to this reality. Working with entire families to promote skill-building has become a key point we plan to address as part of our recommendations. This finding also emphasizes why PGE is studying not just “youth” but “generations” and entire families. Our recommendations recognize that the whole family must be involved in change on critical issues, on the issue of youth as well as gender. We will provide recommendations to the coffee sector not just on improving institutional training for youth, but on knowledge-sharing practices that strengthen farming families and support all farming members to further leverage the resources they can access.

We are enthusiastic about the findings to date of our current research for The Way Forward: Engaging the Next Coffee Generation. This work is so far being funded by the SAFE Platform of the Inter-American Development BankRainforest Alliance, and CQI. PGE is seeking additional partners to support this effort in 2019, and we're also looking for case examples of current practices and programs on youth/generations in the coffee industry (or other agricultural industries). For more information on how to get involved with The Way Forward or suggest case examples, contact us here.

In other PGE news, we recently returned from the AFCA Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, where we launched our new Learning & Innovation Hub. This platform brings together stakeholders from across the sector in a series of thematic groups to prioritize discussion and engagement on key issues. Our first group is on #gendermetrics and applying the Common Measurement Framework for gender in the coffee sector. The Hub, supported in part by the Global Coffee Platform (GCP), will build opportunities for innovation, allow industry members to accelerate equity within their own spheres of influence, and support the scaling-up of PGE’s work over time. Learn more about the new Hub here.


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