This month marks Women’s History Month! We at Pachamama will continue to celebrate some of the amazing women leaders who are farmer-owners of Pachamama Coffee.
There are many women farmers who are part of our cooperative and it is important to tell their stories and listen to their experiences as they continue to lead, build and make change in their communities. Women are essential to the coffee supply chain. They are farmers, laborers, farm owners, and entrepreneurs. Yet women farmers from all over the world face greater challenges than their male counterparts: They are often unable to contribute to the decision-making processes that impact them. Their access to land ownership, education, information, technology, and other essential resources is often limited.
According to a World Bank study in 2014, financially empowering women promotes economic growth and helps families break out of generational poverty as [women] reinvest almost 90% of their earnings into household and family needs. It is important for the coffee industry to recognize the gender gap and understand how working to create equality in access, accessibility and education can positively impact the industry as whole.
As a coffee company and cooperative in the United States, we are committed to the empowerment of female farmers in the coffee industry and in our cooperative. This is key to ensure equal representation and fair treatment for our farmers. As we go through this Women’s History Month, we will introduce you to some of the many women—the farmers, the owners, the decision-makers–who are crucial to Pachamama Coffee.
To begin to recognize the accomplishments of these women, we first must start with Merling Preza, the current President of the Pachamama Coffee Board of Directors and a leader in the fair trade cooperative movement as general manager and co-founder of PRODECOOP in Nicaragua. Merling was essential in Pachamama’s founding and her continued leadership drives the success and growth of Pachamama to continue to pursue a better world for family farmers.
Merling is a trailblazer in the cooperative movement as she helped found PRODECOOP in 1993 and has since worked to advocate for Fair Trade and family farmers in Nicaragua. In an interview in 2019, she discusses what cooperatives like PRODECOOP can do for families.
“Most of the cooperatives, when we organize, it's because members are looking for solutions. If we have enough support we will find those solutions and achieve what we all want which is an appropriate income for all families.” She goes on to say that “it's not about paying more, it's about paying what it is worth.” Individual farmers can’t achieve certifications and other processes alone, but by cooperating, it allows these achievements to become reality. Goals of the cooperative are to improve the quality of the coffee and in doing so improve the lives of small-scale farmers.
With Merling’s leadership, the cooperative works on overall development of the coffee farm, like education, diversification, and investment in other agriculture products to provide other income opportunities for the farmers. Merling also states how it is key to “work and invest on productivity without harming the environment.” The cooperative empowers farmers to invest in themselves, their communities, their crops and the environment, all of which lead to better outcomes for coffee farmers and the coffee industry as a whole.
We are so thankful for Merling Preza’s contributions, not just to Pachamama, but for being an advocate to the cooperative model and coffee farmers around the world. As our leader and the leader of a movement, she leads with passion, drive and lifelong experience that inspires us to continue our mission.
Follow us throughout this month as we highlight other women leaders and farmer-owners of Pachamama who continue to work hard for their families, their communities and the future of coffee, who inspire us to continue working for a more just world everyday.
To watch the full interview mentioned above, you can view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NFMdtIDC0k .
Additionally, we sat down with Merling in our East Sacramento Cafe in 2019. Watch the full video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21pacNy5giA
Sources: SCA Gender Equality and Coffee: Minimizing the Gender Gap in Agriculture https://www.scanews.coffee/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Gender-Equality-and-Coffee-Minimizing-the-Gender-Gap-in-Agriculture-redsize.pdf