Not only are women agronomists improving coffee production in Ethiopia, they’ve become role models for other women.
Hundatu Ayana certainly had her work cut out. A coffee agronomist in her home country of Ethiopia, she was struggling to persuade coffee farmers to give up their traditional ways of managing crops.
Undeterred, Hundatu, 31, got back on her motorbike and continued riding from farm to farm, showing farmers best farming practices, hoping that they would listen. She demonstrated how to cut back old coffee trees so they would rejuvenate, and discussed such things as soil management and composting. She even taught them business skills.
The farmers are very pleased that she persisted. Since they adopted the modern farming methods Hundatu taught them their incomes have shot up. This has resulted in exciting changes. Some have told her that they have been able to send their children to school, while others have told of buying motorbikes, cars and even houses.
Hundatu, from the Aleta Wondo district, isn’t the only woman agronomist changing lives through coffee. In fact, 31 percent of the 441 agronomists working with coffee farmers through the Nespresso Sustainable Quality Program™ are now women. All the coffee agronomists have been trained by Nespresso’s partner, TechnoServe, a non-profit organisation.
As well as helping to improve gender imbalance in the traditionally male-dominated coffee industry, many of the women are supporting their families financially, and act as role models to other girls and women.
“When we first started work, it was challenging due to our cultural background that suggests that women are not equal to men,” Hundatu admitted. “But when the farmers witnessed our persistence and commitment, after a while they started respecting and accepting us.”
When we first started work, it was challenging due to our cultural background that suggests that women are not equal to men. But when they witnessed our persistence and commitment, after a while they started respecting and accepting us.
The great news is that her life has also changed for the better. “I supported my relatives with my salary,” she said. “My younger siblings are in a better place now because I was able to get them a proper education. My parents were able to build a new house for themselves, and my husband and I bought a piece of land in Addis Ababa where I planted new coffee trees, which are starting to produce cherries.”
Hundatu’s a huge inspiration and it’s no surprise that a lot of the girls and young women she meets in rural areas, many of whom she mentors, now want to become agronomists. “When they see me on my motorbike, they want to be like me,” she said.