Friday, April 17, 2015

IWCA Event: Launch of the new IWCA Research Alliance sub-committee

Kick-off meeting of the IWCA Research Alliance at SCAA 2015 - planning a strategy for reducing the gender data gap in coffee

Top: 8 volunteers from around the world meet to discuss IWCA response to Gender Data Gap (not pictured, Mark Inman and Ruth Ann Church).
Bottom (L to R): Daniele Giovannucci (COSA), Mark Inman (Olam and IWCA board member), Marcus Young (Sustainable Harvest/Bloomberg grant program in Rwanda), Adam Wilson (formerly ThriveSupply), Ruth Ann Church (Artisan Coffee Imports), Julenia Maria Lopes da Silva (Brazilian coffee producer), Blanca Castro (ITC consultant/Damos), not pictured, Dr. Norbert Wilson (Auburn University).

April 17, 2015
On April 10 at the SCAA in Seattle, eight volunteers were able to gather to discuss how IWCA might address the Gender Data Gap in coffee -- specifically to decide whether to address the topic: "how many women are there in coffee?"  As co-chair of the IWCA Research and Education Relations Committee, Ruth Ann Church convened the group with the objective to address this "number of women" question for each country where IWCA has a chapter.

Each representative first shared from their own experience what activities they were involved in related to women in coffee. Then, Daniele Giovannucci, as founder of the Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA,, provided invaluable insights that the committee welcomed. COSA has been managing international data collection that has scientific integrity from coffee producers around the world for over 5 years and Daniele brings a career of experience from the United Nations and other multi-lateral organizations.  And yet, even he admits, his data is inadequate to estimate the number of women in coffee in the countries where COSA has worked. This fact alone tells volumes about how challenging this effort is, why it has not been done yet, and why it will take some time to change this situation.

Outcomes from the meeting can be summarized as follows:
1. Estimates not "exact numbers". The experience around the table confirmed that when discussing numbers of coffee households, numbers of men and women in coffee -- every group today is using estimates, and sometimes quite poor ones. So we should not expect to achieve exact numbers for women. Rather, our objective is to determine "credible estimates."

2. An IWCA program - The 1 hour discussion outlined three plausible, but different, directions the committee might go.
A. Ask In-country Institutions - ask the in-country institutions that already collect coffee-related data, such as agricultural extension agencies, universities, research centers, producer associations (like FNC), etc. Ask them for their best estimates of the number of women in coffee in their country.
B. Write Case Studies -- address the issue through case studies on a country-by-country basis. This would be more of a story-telling approach. By outlining the difficulty in understanding the "number of women" in coffee in a particular country, the broader situation and cultural context of women and their role in coffee would also be described.
C. Partner with an NGO - groups like the gender group at the United Nations or a university center, such as the William Davidson Institute were mentioned.

The committee's leadership will review the options and begin moving forward with one. Look for future updates here and on the IWCA website: