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Grounds for Empowerment: Making Coffee Work for Women

Raised toward our $10,000 Goal
85 Donors
Project has ended
Project ended on December 15, at 04:00 PM EST
Project Owners

Grounds for Empowerment: Making Coffee Work for Women

Emory | Goizueta Business School  

Campaign Mission

As you grind, brew, and drink your coffee, you should know that those beans have passed through the hands of many hard-working people, most of whom work and live in poverty. You also should consider that although women are doing the lion’s share of the work growing and harvesting specialty coffee, they are underrepresented when it comes to farm ownership and in roles where prices are negotiated and money changes hands. As a result, women coffee growers face a double economic penalty that is hurting them, their families, and their communities.

The mission of Grounds for Empowerment (GFE) is to provide women specialty coffee growers the business know-how, market connections, and investment funds that will allow their farms to reach their full economic potential. We do this in an innovative three-year business incubator that helps these women transform their promising coffee farms into prosperous small businesses.

What We Do

For a very long time, women have been working for coffee. GFE ensures that coffee also works for women by identifying promising women growers and helping them build stronger small businesses that will lead to more vibrant coffee-growing communities. 

GFE—a program that is being developed and piloted by Social Enterprise @ Goizueta—is pleased to work with Ivania Calderon and Ramona Diaz from northern Nicaragua as our first GFE growers.

Ivania Calderon owns her family’s 51-acre coffee farm called Alborada. She is part of a coffee cooperative and will return home with lessons to empower other women in the co-op.


Ramona Diaz runs a 4.25-acre farm with her husband and four children. She is a representative from her local co-op, PRODECOOP, and comes from a long history of coffee growers.

In each of the next three years, GFE will work with Ivania and Ramona to:

  • Make guaranteed purchases of green coffee at better-than-fair-trade prices to provide them with greater income security.
  • Host them for a week of business training and critical coffee industry networking sessions with Emory’s Goizueta Business School to boost their skills and their connections to customers in the U.S. Our first forum is scheduled for November 13-19, 2016.
  • Fund trips for both women to attend the largest and most important specialty coffee conference hosted by the Specialty Coffee Association of America Expo (SCAA) in Seattle, Washington. This ensures that they meet and  make connections with potential buyers and other supporters.
  • Schedule year-round visits by Emory faculty, staff, and students to their home communities in Nicaragua to help them continuously improve their business and maintain strong connections.
  • Market each of their coffees (both green and roasted) year-round in the Atlanta area to promote their farms and personal brands, and to raise additional dollars to support their development. 

Empowerment is a team sport. GFE is pleased to collaborate with coffee cooperatives in Nicaragua (Cecocafen and Prodecoop), roasters/supply chain partners (Octane and Sustainable Trade), and advisers/supporters (coffee roasters around the U.S. and Full Circle Living).  

Why Your Support Matters

Coffee is the second most valuable commodity traded around the world and is responsible for the economic livelihood of 25 million people on coffee farms and in coffee communities.

Currently, the amounts that are paid for green specialty coffee rarely cover the cost of coffee production, let alone the investments that are required to develop and maintain a high-quality coffee farm.

Women growers are doubly disadvantaged because they tend to be shut out of ownership and selling roles, making their economic positions even more precarious.

By investing in promising women coffee growers like Ivania and Ramona, you will help provide resources for them to learn how to compete more effectively in the lucrative specialty coffee markets. This will allow for more and better investments in both coffee farms and coffee communities.

By ourselves, we can’t change how much a woman coffee grower is paid. However, through the collective efforts of invested individuals, we can provide the coffee world a model program that makes specialty coffee markets work for more women, in more places, and more ways.

Why now?

The GFE pilot program kicks off November 2016 when Ivania and Ramona visit Atlanta from November 13–19. We have chosen this time to start the Momentum crowdfunding campaign to engage supporters and donors in giving opportunities and awareness activities. Please come and meet our Farmers at our Emory Coffee Hour on Monday, November 14 from 10:30–Noon, at the Goizueta Business School in room W525.



Choose a giving level


Paying It Forward Friend

This gift may seem small, but it is roughly six times the current commodity coffee price per pound that most farmers are paid for their specialty coffee.


Weekly Warrior

This gift is the equivalent to what the average American spends on coffee in a week.


Green Machine

Your gift can help cover the sustainable development of 12 bags of coffee.


Cupping Sponsor

Your gift can help us cover the costs of special GFE coffee cupping that puts Ivania’s and Ramona’s coffees in front of specialty coffee roasters from Atlanta, Georgia. This is a critical moment for GFE growers to showcase themselves and their coffees to potential buyers.


Network Travel Sponsor

Your gift can help cover the travel costs for our two GFE farmers as they visit Atlanta and Seattle to engage with customers, supporters, and other coffee professionals—these connections are the most important part of our program.


Booth Buddy

Your gift can help cover approximately half the cost of a booth for the GFE program and growers at the Specialty Coffee Association of America Expo in Seattle.


Three Sixty-Five Club Member

Your gift, according to the SCAA, is equal to the average annual income of a smallholder coffee farmer (or a male grower … women growers earn much less).