* Women do 70 pct of work on coffee farms, own 15 pct of
* In fields where women do most of work, yields improve
* Strauss working with women farmers in Honduras, Vietnam,
By Tova Cohen and Gustavo Palencia
TEL AVIV/TEGUCIGALPA, March 8 From the sparsely
populated mountains of Honduras to an island on Congo's Lake
Kivu, women - many of them victims of domestic violence - have
united to provide for their families by growing coffee.
Now some collectives are getting help from an Israeli food
company that sees the women's high productivity, greater than
that of their male counterparts, as a means to bolster their
income and family security while underpinning business.
Globally, women do 70 percent of the fieldwork on coffee
farms but own only 15 percent of the land and traded beans.
Strauss Group, the world's fifth-largest buyer of
green coffee, is trying to help change that by buying directly
from and investing in women growers' associations in developing
countries, enabling them to produce better quality beans.
Other companies have training programmes for farmers in
developing countries. In Ethiopia, Nestle provides
training in agronomy and farm management to foster gender
equality in coffee farming. Coffee importer Sustainable Harvest
has partnered in a programme to train women farmers in Rwanda.
In Honduras, Strauss is working with COMUCAP, a women's
cooperative in the La Paz region.
"I had nothing,” said COMUCAP President Suyapa Garcia, a
victim of domestic violence, referring to the time before she
joined the cooperative. "That was the biggest problem the women
of COMUCAP had. We depended on our husbands, we had nothing,
only our children."
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Strauss plans to
buy its first container this year, it has engaged with the
Rebuilding Women's Hope (RWH) association on Idjwi island in
Lake Kivu. RWH works with 1,700 women on the island, which has
no running water, electricity or paved roads.
The company provides equipment and financial support to
train farmers in collaboration with coffee exporter Coffeelac
and consulting firm SHIFT Social Impact Solutions.
"My life has changed so much," said Furaha M'Bizimungu, a
widowed mother of seven. She said that since bringing her coffee
to RWH last year, she has been guaranteed a fair price after
having "encountered many of the problems that women face: theft,
M'Bizimungu has earned enough money to buy a sewing machine
that will enable her to provide extra income for her family.
"The goal of this project ... is to rebuild the hope of
women who had once been lost," said RWH founder Marceline Budza.
In Honduras, Strauss has just bought its second container of
washed Arabica to be sold in Israel and Europe.
COMUCAP expects to increase sales to Strauss, whose coffee
division had sales of some $600 million in the first nine months
of 2016, by two containers annually to reach 12 per crop. A
container of 20 tonnes of coffee costs $70,000-$100,000.
Another project is underway in Vietnam with two or three
more planned by year end, eventually reaching 10 to 15. Strauss
is in discussions with growers in El Salvador, Colombia and
"We are talking about households who have annual income of
$500-$1,000," said Amir Levin, Strauss Coffee's chief operating
In fields where women do most of the work, studies have
shown a 20-30 percent yield improvement, he said.
(Additional reporting by David Alire Garcia in Mexico City;
editing by Susan Thomas)