Women, the Guardians of Ethiopian Coffee

Ethiopia is a landlocked country with a population of more than 110 million of which 5.2 million farmers are considered to be coffee growers. Out of these a majority are small landholding farmers. The livelihoods of these farming communities depend on coffee production, food crops production, and livestock husbandry. Most members of the family except underage children are involved in coffee farming.

As in many parts of the world, Ethiopian women play an important role in coffee cultivation. This includes female self-employed farm operators, providers of paid and unpaid labour on family farms, and agricultural workers.

Considering regional variations, contribution of female labour in coffee production can go upto 90% in field work and up to 80% in harvesting activities.

Work involves harvesting, washing, and sorting coffee cherries as well as roasting and brewing (activities near to the homestead). Men are typically more involved in pruning and weeding (both activities conducted in the coffee field). There is joint participation in harvesting, applying compost, and delivering cherries. Hence women being major stakeholders in the coffee supply chain, their empowerment is important for sustainable and profitable coffee production.

Kerchanshe’s Buna Qela Farmers’ Training Center (FTC) acts as centers for extension services and entry points to reach the wider community. Through its various initiatives, the primary focus is on improving sustainability, productivity, and quality of coffee by optimizing the processes that were already in place.

Through these centers women farmers’ get access to support, enabling them to take up new practices and empowering them to earn more from their coffee production. Regular advice on pruning and weeding techniques, how to correctly select ripe cherries, the benefits of intercropping with beneficial plants, providing shade, and an additional source of food are given. Also, activities like stumping (cutting back the plants radically to encourage regeneration) are encouraged and good quality coffee seedlings to replace old stock are provided.


The improved access to various resources in human and social capital, economic, and other related skills would empower women to produce more efficiently, attaining higher yields and returns. Enhancing the resilience of women towards market shocks such as volatility in coffee prices, and developing the adaptive capacity to climate change also promotes long-term sustainability of farmer livelihoods and coffee supply.

Hence by empowering women involved in different capacities of coffee production- as farm operators, family labour, or workers- will benefit the family and community as a whole in different dimensions of economic and social development and the coffee sector in general.