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We visited many coffee plants in the Ethiopian coffee-growing regions of Yirgacheffe, Sidamo and Kochere, and it was noticeable. There was definitely more of one and less of the other. At each of these mills, the predominant gender of the workers was female. I asked one mill worker why this was and she said, “the guys are here when the trucks come in and deliver the coffee”. There were certainly many females involved at this stage. What look like middle school-aged girls sorted myriad bags for defects as they sat on the concrete floor, and women at the larger plants, like GMC, in Addis Ababa, had conveyer belts passing by. One article I read said that these women earn about $5 a week.
Here I quote Beth Ann Caspersen, one of JavaJog’s founders, “Ethiopian coffee is among the most sought-after coffees in the world, and although women play a central role in assuring its quality, especially on the farms and at the processing centers, they remain very much behind the scenes.”
I would have to say that their disposition was happy, whether they were intrigued by foreign visitors or that was just an impression given, true or false. Perhaps they appreciated my pathetic, if not humorous attempts at sorting alongside with them. They had spent the early part of the day at school and then come to the mill for sorting. They had been on the ground for some hours, and I had come and gone within 60 minutes.
I did see some males though, particularly when my camera came out. They also had a happy disposition.
My understanding has not changed, the farmers and workers have the hardest, if not the least paid job, in the coffee industry.
– Paul Allen, Caravan Coffee Roastmaster