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December 7, 2018


It has been a good seven years since Jeannie Javelosa and I attended an International Trade Center Women in Trade event in Chongqing, China. We were there to meet companies who committed to buy coffee and textiles through We Connect International from women-owned companies. It was also there that I met Phyllis Johnson, then President of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA). Phyllis also ran BD Imports, a company that sourced most of its green coffee beans from African cooperatives led by women.

That was 2011.

Immediately after, I met Princess Kumalah Sug-Elardo, the chair of a woman-led multi purpose- cooperative from Panamao, Sulu. We and several women leaders who owned cafes like Lot Manalo-Tan, Reena Francisco, research professionals like Josephine Ramos and coffee processor Christine Abellon got together to form what is now known as the IWCA Philippines chapter.

On the production side, we asked Philippine Coffee Board Inc. (PCBI) to help and we started to train women from Beckel, Benguet through the introduction of Cordillera Network of NGOS.

Manny Torrejon and I brought hoses and drums for their fledgling coffee nursery. That was 2011. We met women farmers who were curious about our campaign.

In 2012 we brought latte artist/barista Selina Viguera (now with Blue Bottle Coffee) to do some demos of latte art in ECHOcafe in Serendra. We also brought back a coffee cupper to the Philippines, a balikbayan named Katrina “Kat” Mulingtapang, who was then working with Neumann Coffee Group and was our shepherd in chapter formation. Kat and I did cupping demos at Ros Juan’s newly-opened Commune Café in Makati and then we traveled to Medan, Bali and Jakarta to also scout around for possible chapter leaders around Asia.

And in 2012 we got an order from Accenture Philippines for roasted coffee! Accenture is part of the ITC/ We Connect initiative and the Philippine office got orders from their Asia Pacific office to look for this small women-owned social enterprise called ECHOstore. We nailed the order and we knew this was going to be a big campaign.

Women in coffee at ECHOstore

In 2013 Josephine Ramos and I went to Guatemala to meet the other IWCA members at the Biennial IWCA Convention.

In 2015 Ros Juan and I went to Colombia along with Vanessa Caceres, a female barista who competed and won for us in the Barista championship at the event.

Vanessa Caceres

In 2017, we brought our Indonesian and Chinese recruits to Puebla, Mexico to be recognized as chapters in formation.

Ros Juan holding our flag

In November 2018, we formed the Myanmar chapter and brought them to the Hainan Coffee Expo to be recognized.

Meanwhile, IWCA started to get more members interested to join our advocacy. We met Ross Alonso, a Robusta farmer from Batangas; Noemi Dado and daughter Marielle who wanted to plant coffee in Benguet; Imelda Ahalul-Dagus who started Dennis Coffee Garden in Zamboanga; Gold Quetulio who would take care of our membership campaign, and many others who signed up because they believed in our advocacy: to get more women to access markets and to let women get the full value of their work in coffee.

And from 2012 and every year thereafter during harvest season, Princess would do the Pick Red campaign in Sulu while Nicky Matti and I went to Benguet. From 2014 through 2016 we would help them get jute sacks up to Cordilleras, and also buy their coffee beans, in whatever form—parchment, green or roasted.

And that’s why we at ECHOstore started the “Women in Coffee” brand—coffees that were traceable to Ellen or Rosalinda, who took great care in harvesting only the ripe cherries and would continue to add value to their produce. Princess also branded her coffees “Sulu Royal Coffee” while Ros used her café brand on her coffee packs.

We also started to work with other agencies and NGOs like ACDIVOCA, ECHOsi Foundation and DA-Gender and Development office (GAD) to bring trainings under the “Women in Coffee” banner. Starting in 2017 and continuing, we went to Davao, Butuan City, Sagada, Sultan Kudarat, Ilocos Sur, and Nueva Vizcaya to talk about our advocacy—quality coffee from women farmer groups and women cuppers and tasters.

This year was a real banner year as USAID – Green Invest tapped IWCA to conduct studies for women in the coffee sector in the PH and International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) also commissioned IWCA to present case studies for its journals. The network of IWCA Philippines has been recognized by international partners such as ASEAN Coffee Federation who now gives IWCA a stand at Café Asia in Singapore and in THAIFEX in Bangkok, Thailand every March and May, respectively.

The latest promotion to international markets was the IWCA pavilion in Hainan Coffee Congress where the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, India, Japan, Uganda, Burundi, India, Ethiopia, Kenya chapters were featured.

The work continues as we go from one harvest season and onto the next. Women still continue to bring their patience, natural skills and God-given talents for putting quality above all in coffee harvesting, processing and roasting.

After 11 years of the #womenincoffee advocacy, I am glad that local organizations, public and private, are finally taking notice and embracing the cause as well. We are finally gaining traction and we hope that this advocacy spreads and touches even more lives.

IWCA members’ coffees are available at, Kape Maleng-ag in Benguet, Sulu Royal coffee, Commune Café, and all ECHOstores.


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