Florence Njiraini has a trifecta of accolades this Earth Day. She’s a woman coffee farmer in Kenya and a leader in her country’s sustainable farming efforts. She’s earned the respect of both women and men, and is a role model for other African women. And she’s been nominated for the 2019 Rainforest Alliance Community Honoree Award.
She’s a smallholder who started out – with almost no knowledge of farming – with a gift of 1500 coffee plants from her husband to join his coffee-growing community. Today, she is the lead farmer for the Mutira Farmers’ Cooperative, a group of more than 5,500 Kenyan smallholders that has been Rainforest Alliance Certified ™since 2013
“Nearly half the world’s agricultural work is performed by women but, unsurprisingly, they have far less access to resources than men do, including training and credit” says Joky François, Global Theme Lead Gender, for the Rainforest Alliance. Njiraini learned quickly, adopting sustainable farming practices, and it paid off! Her farm is a real success, doubling her production yield on a small landholding.
The Rainforest Alliance reports: “ [Njiraini ] made a life-changing decision to swap out her trees for disease-resistant varieties, she not only cut out the need to buy fungicides, she doubled her yields. In just three years, her yields went from an average of 15kg per bushel to 30kg—the highest coffee productivity rate in the country. ”
She’s become a peer trainer and motivational speaker, especially for women. And she’s sought out by government officials for Kenya Coffee Platform.
In 2015 she won the Presidential award for best farmer in Kenya!
Inclusion and equality of women – not only in coffee production but all sector of agriculture – is a key to development success. ”If the playing field were made level, women could increase their farm yields by 20-30%, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.”
“There is a broad consensus among development and supply chain experts that without women’s empowerment, the world will not meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030,” says François.
Florence Njiraini is leading the way in her region’s cooperative. And her country is now one of 22 country affiliates in the International Women in Coffee Alliance, founded by women from Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and the US. Their motto could be Njiraini’s watchword: Strong women=Strong Coffee