New round of grants from The Starbucks Foundation will help uplift women and girls in coffee-growing communities
BUSTAMANTE, Costa Rica – For Kattya Hidalgo, the chickens came first. Then the eggs. It’s not clear which bring her more joy.
Hidalgo, 46, is part of a cohort of women farmers who work with Bean Voyage, a Costa Rican nonprofit supported in part by The Starbucks Foundation, that empowers smallholder women coffee farmers with training in farming techniques, climate change, business fundamentals, financial literacy and project management.
After they finish a year-long curriculum, they can apply for seed money to start income-diversification projects.
With $300 last year, Hidalgo bought eight chickens and built a coop.
“Hens caught my attention the most because here at home, we rarely eat meat. We prefer to eat eggs,” Hidalgo says. “But eggs are very expensive. We would limit ourselves to one egg a day. If you had eggs for lunch, you had no right to eat eggs at night.
“I can’t explain to you the joy of seeing the first eggs, seeing my children – ‘Mommy, eggs!’ – eating eggs produced by me.”
Since March 2022, The Starbucks Foundation has awarded 10 grants totaling nearly $3 million to nonprofits working with women in coffee and tea-growing communities across seven countries, including Bean Voyage. This announcement, on International Women’s Day, is part of the Foundation’s continuing goal to positively impact 1 million women and girls in “origin communities” by 2030.
“We’re proud to work with nonprofits to reach women in coffee and tea-growing communities like Kattya,” says Alicia Vermaele, executive director of The Starbucks Foundation. “Through our Origin Grants, we’re helping to create opportunities and promote more equitable access to resources that enable women to improve their lives and livelihoods. We know that when we invest in a woman, we uplift not only that woman, but also her family and her community – leading to a brighter future for all.”
With these grants, The Starbucks Foundation expects to reach an additional 60,000 women and girls over the next three years.
In January, Sunghee Tark, co-founder and CEO of Bean Voyage, visited Hidalgo’s farm to check in on her and her hen project. Tark started the nonprofit in 2016 with her friend, Abhinav Khanal, after they graduated from college, in response to the millions of “invisible” women who work on coffee farms around the world. They chose the name Bean Voyage to help women coffee producers “feel like they’re traveling the world through their coffee,” Tark says.
“Because of how the coffee industry has been structured, and then the cultural elements in many parts of the world, including Latin America, a lot of times, the work that women do isn’t necessarily valued the same way as the work that men do,” Tark says.
“As an organization, we believe that if women are provided with the resources and then the right conditions, they will know what to do moving forward. What we do is make those resources available so they can actually go out and build their own future for themselves.”
For 22 years, Hidalgo worked as a legal assistant in San José, the bustling capital of Costa Rica. But then her boss, a lawyer, died. She and her family moved back to the countryside, where she’d grown up, and took over a coffee, fruit and vegetable farm. Though she was enthusiastic, there was a lot to learn. That’s when she heard about Bean Voyage and became intrigued by its mission.
“We live not only in a country, but in a world of aggression, where women have always been given very little space,” Hidalgo says. “Here and everywhere, people have always believed that men are the ones in charge, the ones who have to bring food to the table, and that women are only meant to raise children, and it's not like that. We live in times of equality when both you and I can work, and we both can contribute.”
Hidalgo says she’s learned so much from Bean Voyage – not only about better farming techniques but also about being a leader in her community, climate change adaptation and business and entrepreneurship. She sometimes sells her extra eggs to neighbors, which provides additional income. And she hopes to export her coffee one day.
“I want to keep learning. I no longer see myself as someone who struggles to learn,” she says. “On the contrary, I want to learn more every day and become even better than what I am.”
And her chickens?
“I love them. You have no idea,” she says, laughing. “My hens will die of old age, but I won’t eat them.”
The Starbucks Foundation Origin Grant recipients
Bean Voyage, Costa Rica | to support 150 smallholder women coffee farmers with tools and knowledge, seed-grants and peer mentorship so they can promote food security and lead their businesses towards growth, sustainability and resilience.
CARE, Indonesia | to support social and economic empowerment of 1,350 women in West Java tea communities through leadership training, community development forums and promotion of community-driven responses such as nutrition, gender protection and WASH, in collaboration with the Ethical Tea Partnership.
Days for Girls, Kenya | to advance menstrual equity for 7,000 working women in coffee and tea communities through increased access to washable menstrual products, health education programs and engagement of local leaders, men and boys and community members.
Global Water Challenge, Tanzania | to support up to 40,000 women and girls in coffee- and tea- producing communities to meet their most critical WASH and socio-economic needs through increased access to WASH, income-generating activities and entrepreneurship training.
Hanns R Neumann Foundation, Honduras | to promote healthy homes and inclusive households and to support economic empowerment for 1,850 women in coffee communities through entrepreneurship, income diversification and WASH training.
Mercy Corps, Indonesia | to provide health education and improved WASH facilities, increase economic resilience of women coffee farmers and expand economic opportunity for women-led and -owned enterprises, reaching 3,300 women in West Java.
Save the Children, Mexico | to create economic opportunities and promote resilience for 1,500 women in Puebla’s coffee-growing communities through financial and digital literacy skills, entrepreneurship training, and support for women-owned businesses to start, grow and succeed.
TechnoServe, Peru | to increase economic and social empowerment of 1,300 women in coffee growing households through development of leadership, decision-making and communications skills as well as building individual and collective agency.
Water1st, Honduras | to provide comprehensive water supply and sanitation solutions, along with hygiene education, for 50 households in a rural coffee-growing community, supporting greater opportunity and health for women and girls.
Village Enterprise, Kenya | to increase income and savings and build resilience for more than 500 women in Kenya’s Mt. Elgon coffee-growing communities by equipping first-time entrepreneurs with the tools and resources to launch sustainable micro businesses.