Bean Voyage supports a network of 67 smallholder womxn coffee producers in Costa Rica with training on best practices in coffee production and access to international markets.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are unable to host workshops and are facing the loss of purchasing contracts due to the declining market.
The canceled contracts of coffee have resulted in more than $200,000 in losses for a key Bean Voyage partner – a collective of 67 smallholder womxn coffee producers in Costa Rica.
This loss represents up to 75% of annual income for the smallholder womxn coffee producers.
On the household level, this means decreased funds for their children’s education and healthcare for the family and leads to hunger.
On the farm level, this leads to producers’ inability to purchase seeds and fertilizers that can result in little to no annual harvest in the coming years.
Moreover, the severe cut in their annual income means accumulating interest on loans of womxn producers who already had challenges accessing favorable interest rates due to their gender, and can expose entire farming families to an unprecedented level of a financial risk considering the limited social infrastructure that can support them.
So, we launched Colaboración Virtual 2020 (COVIR-20) – a response to the COVID-19 pandemic to continue providing key knowledge programs and market access support to smallholder producers by leveraging existing low-cost and highly-accessible technology such as WhatsApp**.
Each week, producers receive curated learning materials via WhatsApp in voice notes and images. We then host live sessions on WhatsApp where the producers are given a space to ask questions and get tested for their understanding by playing interactive games.
To Pilot COVIR-20, we’ve tested our e-learning on post-harvest practices and market programs for all 67 coffee producers in the collective since March 2020. We have also gained early momentum for the market access program as we have successfully negotiated contracts with small-scale roasters in the U.S, Canada and Europe. We aspire to continue leveraging storytelling and social media to find a market for each of our producers’ coffee. Learning from the pilot, we plan to expand the training program to 700 vulnerable producers in Costa Rica to provide them with immediate COVID-19 Relief support.
**The use of WhatsApp as a platform was critical at this point as we hoped to quickly pivot to providing educational and social support to vulnerable women coffee producers while social distancing. Rural women have limited access to technology, internet connectivity, and are more likely to have challenges reading and writing. The average age of a coffee farmer in Costa Rica is 50+ years old. Therefore, voice notes and visual assistance are key to engage them.