Hivos celebrated International Women’s Day with women coffee producers

March 15, 2016

On March 8 (International Women’s Day), Hivos visited the Growing Women in Coffee project in Kericho, Kenya. At their nearby coffee plantations, the women coffee growers explained how much they benefit from the biogas plants installed by the Kenyan department of the Africa Biogas Partnership Programme (ABPP).

ABPP is a joint venture between the Dutch foreign ministry, Hivos and SNV that aims to initiate and assist large-scale use of domestic biogas in East Africa through a market-based approach.

“We were greeted by a group of energetic, optimistic women who said the project has really helped them take ownership over coffee farming. Instead of being just a workforce in fields run by men, they now know about coffee growing techniques, trade channels and economics in value chains”, explained Hivos Programme Officer Harry Clemens.

The Growing Women in Coffee project is funded by the Big Lottery Fund England and Guernsey Overseas Aid Commission, and delivered by Fairtrade Africa with support from Fairtrade Foundation and Solidaridad. The three-year project provides training for women, implements renewable energy and provides access to niche coffee markets in East Africa. Since the Fairtrade certification, male farmers have transferred ownership of part of their coffee plantation to their wives. Some have them organised themselves into small coffee cooperatives.

In addition to coffee farming, the women take care of their households and children, getting up before sunrise and working until close to midnight. This includes spending hours fetching firewood for cooking.

The biogas plants, however, are changing all this, as Harry Clemens found out. “Now that the women cook on biogas, they save a tremendous amount of time that otherwise would go into gathering firewood. The women also said that the biogas technology has made their husbands help with the cooking, which is traditionally seen as women’s work. Now, the families can spend more quality time together. And instead of buying chemical fertilisers, they use the slurry left over from producing biogas as an organic fertiliser for their crops. They all say biogas has significantly improved their quality of life.”

To date, the project has provided biogas plants to 200 households, who now cook faster and without indoor smoke, benefiting both their health and the environment.

Hivos and its partners are demonstrating that clean, accessible energy is not an “alternative”, but simply the best choice. We make simple, smart and clean technologies like biodigesters or efficient wood stoves accessible to low-income smallholders in remote areas, especially women, who benefit directly from improved cooking facilities.

Our biogas programmes with SNV in Central America, Africa and South East Asia have led to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions and enabled tens of thousands of rural households to become energy producers themselves. This saves them money, but also means better health and increased crop yields.