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“Can you come over to Nueva Vizcaya next?” the ladies asked ECHOsi Chair Chit Juan. These ladies from Region 2, along with some women from Region 1, joined the Women in Coffee Training session held in Sagada mid-January, amid cool temperatures and chilly weather.

The Philippine Coffee Board, Inc. (PCBI) and ECHOsi Foundation, with Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), is part of the Great Women Project 2. The groups have been conducting training sessions for women in the coffee value chain since October 2017.

Training in Davao (October 2017)

Training in Butuan (November 2017)

The call is for quality coffee production by gathering women coffee producers and training them to know what it takes to make good coffee even better.

There are a lot of partners who have been involved in making these trainings a reality. The Department of Agriculture (DA) Gender and Development (GAD) central office, headed by Jojo Badiola and Lorna Villegas, rounded up women farmers in every region and around the areas where the trainings were held.

The third of a series conducted in Sagada, Mountain Province, had around 40 attendees who participated in cupping or tasting coffee along with Coffee Q grader Jennifer Rimando who hails from the area. Rimando also did the first two sessions in Davao City and Butuan City late last year.

Training in Sagada (January 2018)

Rimando reminded the farmers that “after harvesting is when the tedious work starts.” In English and native Ilocano, the women shared their experiences with the time it takes to make good coffee. A group from Tuba, Benguet chimmed in, “That’s how we won the Kape Pilipino, or at least placed in the top ten.” Shirley Palao-Ay proudly showed off a copy of The Ultimate Coffee Guide produced by PCBI, where winners’ names were published.

The other few gentlemen in the group were from another cooperator, Peace and Equity Foundation Inc. (PEF). Their work in coffee has been largely in the Cordillera region, by encouraging social enterprises to borrow or co-invest in PEF in developing their coffee businesses.

“It’s about convergence,” Juan exclaimed. “ECHOsi cannot do it alone. We have experts and experienced operators who are members of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA-Ph), PCBI, PEF, DA-GAD, Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), and sometimes the local government also pitches in,” she continued.

Through PCBI, Great Women Project 2 found a good product in coffee. It is something that women can relate to and where they can play important roles in the industry. “Women make better tasters as biologically they have more sensory glands than males,” Juan said.

Meanwhile, Ros Juan, owner of Commune Café in Makati and IWCA-Ph member also told the farmers what roasters look for in coffee. “We need to see the green beans with the right moisture and almost zero defects,” she stated. The younger Juan has been buying local coffee for five years, when she started her café.

“Through these sessions I am able to meet the farmer directly and I am able to tell them what I need,” Ros continued. The quality of the meager amount she has been getting from Benguet has improved after the visits she and PCBI made to the community. “They even put their names on the coffee bags because they are proud of the sorting they did,” she added.

What is the significance of coffee training? The country imports most of what the country consumes. There is a lack in production and with the little amount produced, quality has to be improved so farmers can get better prices. Palao-ay can now sell her ranked coffee from P400 per kilo, up from P250 pero kilo a few years ago. “The KP winning made my coffee more premium,” Palao-ay recalled.

As the Philippines only produces 35,000 metric tons and consumption or demand is 135,000 metric tons, there’s a lot of room for women to sort their coffees, taste them, and sell them at a premium. PCBI and ECHOsi, through Great Women 2, are helping these women find their specialty markets.

The next session happening in early March will be in Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat in cooperation again with DA-GAD, PEF, IWCA-Ph, and PCBI’s staunch partners, ACDI/VOCA and USDA.

What about Regions 1 and 2? “We’re going there and this time, not only with women but with men as well,” Chit Juan smiled as she gathered her coffee kits for the next event.

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