An Inspiration in the Baking: How USAID´s Coffee Value Chains Project Supports Women
This post is written by Oscar Hernández Vela, chief of party, Coffee Value Chains Project.
Grindis Villatoro inhales the delicious aroma of fresh baked bread as she pulls a rack from the oven at the bakery she co-runs with 14 other young women. Based in La Libertad in the Western Highlands of Guatemala, the bakery provides nutritious food to the community and a good income to the women of the Peña Roja Coffee Cooperative. The income from the bakery supplements the income they receive from their small lot coffee plots, on average around $2,000 a year. Women and young people living in the Western Highlands of Guatemala have an especially hard time finding economic opportunities due to age and gender discrimination. This coupled with historically low coffee prices and lower production due to climate change, is driving young people to abandon their families’ plots and irregularly migrate.
USAID’s Coffee Value Chains project, implemented by the Federation of Coffee Cooperatives of Guatemala, is supporting women and young people through entrepreneurial opportunities in areas with high irregular migration. Through seed capital and vocational training, USAID is focusing on providing a diversification of income, improved nutrition and greater social inclusion so that families are more resilient to unexpected changes.
Grindis, who had been relying on her small coffee plot to provide for her family, was looking for opportunities when she was selected to be part of USAID’s entrepreneur training program. Along with the other 14 women in the co-op, she attended Guatemala’s National Technical Training Institute (INTECAP) to learn the skills needed to run a small bakery, including how to bake both traditional breads as well as cakes, pizza and pastries. After completing their studies, each woman invested some of their own funds, which were complemented by seed funds from USAID, to purchase professional kitchen equipment. The women worked closely with Grupos Gestores, a professional business development firm, to develop a business plan to set a successful foundation for the bakery.
Today, the bakery is a reality with sales of $1,200 per month. Each of the co-op’s members are making $85 dollars more per month than before. For Grindis this represents a 51% increase in her monthly income from coffee. “This income will be invested into my family to improve the lives of my two sons,” commented Grindis with pride. The young women are also using the bakery as a vehicle to improve nutrition in their community by adding natural ingredients that increase their products’ nutritional value, such as carrots, oranges and oats.
USAID is improving the livelihoods of 11,500 small-scale coffee producers and their families through improving crop productivity, the adaptation of more nutritious diets and expanding access to markets. In 2021, USAID is expanding to support a total of 40 coffee cooperatives and other groups, increasing its reach to another 3,500 households. Grindis’ strong leadership skills at the bakery led to more opportunities. She was recently hired by the Peña Roja Coffee Cooperative as an outreach coordinator in nutrition, organizing groups of women who are interested in improving their families’ nutrition and livelihoods.