Women in Coffee

Central American coffee crops were hit hard by coffee leaf rust, or roya, in the 2013-2014 growing season. The fungal disease prevents the coffee bush from producing berries, losing the coffee crop. Large drops in unemployment throughout Mexico, Central America and Colombia, have affected people's ability to earn their livings. 

While volunteering in a migrant's shelter in Tucson, Arizona in March of 2015, I met various families from Guatemala and other parts of Central America who reported migrating northwards because they lost their jobs on coffee fincas. These were mostly men.

In the fall of 2016, I will be studying the impact of this coffee leaf rust epidemic, and the subsequent out-migration, on women in small coffee communities. I will visit cooperatives in Guatemala and Nicaragua to conduct a comparative ethnographic study of their experiences.

Coffee is one of the largest traded commodities in the world. Its producers, especially small ones, can be affected greatly by the volatile global economy. Global capitalism so effectively obscures the interconnectedness of the product and the means of production (labor). I find it important to bring light to the culture and struggles of women on coffee farms, in order to connect coffee drinkers in the global north with another side of the system we are all a part of. The ways in which women have responded and adapted can be a model for struggles elsewhere.

This project is supported by the National Geographic Young Explorer Program. Stay tuned for more on this project.