British chefs visit Women in Coffee scheme in Kenya

A trio of British chefs have travelled more than 6,500 miles to Kenya’s Nandi Hills to see for themselves how a coffee scheme is transforming the position of females locally.

Even though women typically fulfil 70 per cent of the work at home and on farms, it is still considered unacceptable for them to own land or coffee bushes in parts of rural Kenya and only the men who receive any form of payment.

In an effort to break this negative cycle, some male menbers of a Fairtrade cooperative in the Nandi Hills have set up the Women in Coffee scheme where husbands give around a quarter of their coffee bushes, with a minimum number of 50, to their wives.

This gives the women the freedom to register as members of cooperative societies, open bank accounts and receive a direct income for their work for the first time.

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The scheme has proved so popular that according to the latest Fairtrade reports there are now in excess of 500 smallholder female coffee farmers who own around 250 coffee bushes each.

London cooks Melissa Hemsley, Tom Hunt and Tess Ward headed out to see this pioneering project for themselves where they learned to make ugali and picked coffee cherries with the women. They also learned more about the lives of the farmers who told the chegs how they earn around just 80p per day from the coffee which means they live below the poverty line and can’t afford to drink the coffee they produce.

For Melissa Hemsley, the Kenya visit was an “incredibly powerful” experience.

“I had no idea about the levels of effort that go into coffee production,” she said, adding: “I now have such a respect for coffee growers and I’m careful not waste one bean. I even had a row with my boyfriend when I saw him sweep precious coffee dust onto the floor.”

The plight of farmers in developing economies is being highlighted by this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight which is focusing on women, with the #SheDeserves campaign calling for all farmers to earn a living wage.

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