Kezia Mukamana grew up in the southern part of Rwanda, a country torn apart by genocide nearly 30 years ago, when more than 800,000 people were killed. Since then, the country has faced many issues: poverty; high levels of gender-based violence; degraded, overworked and unproductive plots of land; and loss of knowledge of sustainable farming practices.
By the time she reached her 40s, Kezia was married with four children, eating just one meal per day, with no consistent source of income or savings.
But things started to change when she received a cow and training in sustainable farming practices from Send A Cow, a nonprofit supported in part by The Starbucks Foundation.
Through its Ikawa N’Inka (Coffee and Cows) project, the cow has provided Kezia and her family milk to drink, a little more to sell and manure for fertilizer which has boosted agricultural production. Last year, the family doubled the output from their coffee trees, which helped provide enough extra income to join a savings program, invest in a household vegetable garden, buy medical insurance and pay for the children’s school fees.
Kezia and her family were able to gift a calf from their cow to support another family, and she’s now helping to share the training she has received with other community members.
“Also, family harmony has improved, and our life in general,” Kezia says. “In this community, women used to move around with baskets asking for vegetables to feed their families. Now they can produce their own.”
Today, The Starbucks Foundation announced that it has reached a milestone of helping empower 250,000 women and girls in coffee, tea and cocoa growing communities around the world, like the one Kezia lives in. The Starbucks Foundation has invested more than $14 million in women and girls, distributed through Origin Grants to more than 20 nonprofit organizations such as Send a Cow.
Ahead of International Women’s Day, The Starbucks Foundation is furthering its goal, announcing plans to impact 1 million additional women and girls in these communities by 2030. It’s part of Starbucks People Positive aspirations focused on enhancing the well-being of all who connect with Starbucks.
As with the initial investments, the next phase of support will focus on the same three pillars: promoting economic opportunity and empowerment, advancing women’s leadership and increasing access to clean water, sanitization and hygiene.
The goals are part of Starbucks bigger commitment to sourcing coffee responsibly, a commitment that extends to all coffee, cocoa and tea growing communities around the world. It’s a commitment that starts with ensuring the well-being of farmers and their families, especially the women in these communities who often face social and economic barriers.
“We have a vision to ensure a sustainable future of coffee for all,” says Michelle Burns, Starbucks executive vice president of Global Coffee, Tea and Cocoa, who also sits on The Starbucks Foundation Board. “This goes beyond farmers and farm workers to also supporting the well-being of all those in coffee communities, helping everyone thrive.
“We continue to see the incredible impact of these Origin Grants on creating socioeconomic and leadership opportunities for women and girls that in turn helps their entire family to improve their lives and livelihoods.”
Breakthrough solutions through partnerships
To identify the right projects and create the most impact, The Starbucks Foundation seeks to work with stakeholders with the most expertise. That’s why long-term partnerships with nonprofits like Mercy Corps are so important.
For nearly two decades, The Starbucks Foundation and Mercy Corps have collaborated to address needs in coffee, tea and cocoa growing communities.
“I’m really proud of the way we have approached working together, co-designing comprehensive programs while keeping the needs and hopes of community members at the center of all we do,” says Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, Chief Executive Officer of Mercy Corps. “We must work in partnership to find breakthrough solutions that will help us solve the world’s toughest problems and achieve more than we could alone.”
Through the partnership, Mercy Corps has offered financial inclusion and entrepreneurship training programs for indigenous women in Guatemala; helped women coffee growers in Colombia gain access to formal property rights and learn about more sustainable land and water management practices; provided mentoring to women coffee farmers in Indonesia to improve their health and economic livelihoods; and supported women in tea communities in India in keeping their families safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When we think about supporting women and girls globally, the real problem isn’t women – their capacity or their confidence – but rather the systems that have been designed to exclude them,” D’Oyen McKenna says. “In order for women to take their place as equals and leaders in their communities, we all need to promote women’s choices and priorities, shift social norms and behaviors, find ways to measure and value the care economy, help women move up the value chain and engage women in discussions and decisions around natural resource management and climate change.”
A commitment to farmers and their families
The Starbucks Foundation’s Origins Grants work complements the company’s commitment to empower communities in coffee, tea and cocoa growing communities. Starbucks is currently piloting several programs focused on creating income diversification and building childcare centers to support coffee families during harvest.
In Guatemala, Starbucks and the Wakami Foundation are identifying women entrepreneurs in rural coffee communities and helping them create women’s groups to produce high-quality, on-trend products to sell in the global marketplace. They’re also introducing regenerative agriculture initiatives, such as raising chickens to produce eggs to sell locally, and cultivating and exporting izote, a high-demand ornamental houseplant that can be grown adjacent to coffee fields.
Income diversification is important when the coffee yield isn’t enough, given the small-farm nature of coffee production in Guatemala.
Starbucks is also helping fund different childcare center models in partnership with coffee suppliers in countries such as Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, so families have a safe place to drop off children while they work. The centers make sure children have nutritious meals during the day and receive educational instruction and social play to support their well-being while schools are closed during this time of year for their summer holiday.
Photos provided by Mercy Corps and Send A Cow