Happy spring! Hope you all are enjoying more time spent outside, longer daylight hours and the often apocalyptic (lifting-the-veil) return of internal and external growth!
This month marked the return of Baho coffees to our subscription program, and it’s been such a joy to work on them - with more to come this spring and summer! Obviously we will always love the slightly more classic washed coffees from Eder, Santos, and Marleyi, but it is so fun to have a juicy, natural processed coffee to brew again.
Ngoma Ikizere, as you might be able to guess, comes from the same washing station as the washed Ngoma we had last year. However, this lot is from Baho’s Ikizere project, a word that means confidence in Kinyarwanda. From Ben’s write-up for Sundog Trading,
“The group is composed of widowed women and single mothers who share the unique challenges of navigating traditionally patriarchal systems - both the Rwandese society as a whole and more specifically coffee production. Through supporting the Ikizere project, we hope to aid in developing a stronger sense of community between the women and create a platform upon which their voices can be heard.”
We’re still learning about Ikizere, and it seems like the project is continuing to develop and change. The group grew from one station (Fugi) a few years ago to 100+ total producers delivering to every Baho station this year.
WOMEN IN COFFEE
There’s a trope in the coffee industry of large blends of cheap coffee marketed as Women-produced with little to no traceability. The fact that women grew the coffee is the selling point, mostly divorced from any coherent economic analysis. We’ve written before about the short-falls of Fairtrade certifications, and there’s an overlap in the critique here. Sometimes, coffee marketed as a more ethical choice can be, at best, a commodified export veneered in meaningless platitudes. At worst, it can further alienate coffee buyers from any sort of understanding of (or solidarity with) smallholders across the global south.
Hopefully it’s clear we’re not against roasting the coffee of women-led farms. Specialty coffees are often identified by the name of the farm’s owner (hint: more on this next newsletter), and it’d be amazing if more women smallholders owned their land and earned a sustainable surplus! Especially given that women working on coffee farms often carry a double burden of performing agricultural and domestic labor in an infamously exploitative market.
We absolutely want to support projects that work towards materially improving the lives of women in coffee. Words, voices, and platforms make coffee meaningful! But it's all pointless, and honestly offensive, if there's no substance to back it up.
ORGANIZED AND MOBILIZED
To expand on Ben’s point, we already know Ikizere is a real improvement on the status quo! Already, all the smallholders working with Baho get extra training, investment, higher prices and 2nd payments. But it seems this group of women have organized as their own self-advocates, even electing leadership and representatives internally. They have now secured specific benefits uniquely tailored to their collective needs, including year-round health insurance and domestic infrastructure upgrades.
Tomorrow (Tuesday May 2), we’re roasting the next coffee from Baho, and will send y’all the info on it (crossing my fingers) much more promptly :)
Thanks for all your support! Check out these beautiful pics from Ngoma (same ones as last year, and not necessarily related to this natural processed coffee but they're still super cool!)