Nueva York is one of a dozen small coffee communities nestled in the Amazonas region of northern Peru, just east of the Andes Mountains. The isolation of the rugged terrain and mysterious cloud forests that cover the area all but hide it from the rest of the world. For generations, the people of that region have grown and produced coffee. It is a way of life that has spanned a course as strenuous as the Andean landscape. For one generation of women in particular, that course took a dramatic change. This is the story of Erlita Baca Acre, one of the 464 brave Peruvian women who challenged a tradition and came together to create Café Femenino®.
Erlita was like hundreds of other women in the coffee-producing regions of Peru: she played a large role in the production of coffee but had little say when it came to making decisions. Preexisting socioeconomic structures meant that traditionally, many women in the coffee-growing areas of Peru were not recognized as producers or paid for the coffee they produced. In fact, women were not only participating in all the stages of production, they were preparing food, taking care of household chores, and raising the children too. These women did not have the advantages of an organized collective before Café Femenino® was founded.
Erlita lived her whole life in Nueva York and grew up on the family farm, helping harvest and produce coffee. As a young woman, she began attending meetings at the local coffee cooperative with her mother. She married Segundo Villanueva, the founder of the local association and witnessed the benefits received by participants of the organization. She joined the cooperative in 2000 and has since grown to be a leader in her community, becoming the Vice President of CECANOR and Treasurer of the Cafe Femenino® program in Peru.
Cofounded by a group of Peruvian women in 2004, including Erlita, the Cafe Femenino® program was created to support and empower women coffee producers. In the 14 years since, Café Femenino has grown into a movement empowering women in remote coffee-growing regions across nine different countries.
For Erlita, the support has been unequivocal, “To me, this organization has meant many opportunities to learn, to learn about other communities, and a lot of experience in coffee production. Thanks to the organization, I can educate my daughter and help her become a professional. I have had the opportunity to travel to the United States to SCA, something that I never could have done if it weren’t for my participation in Café Femenino®. Today, I am interested in producing coffee that is of higher quality every time, I want to continue learning more, and I want to help my family.”
With the knowledge she has gained, Erlita has not only elevated the standards on her own farm, but she has helped lift the young women within her community too. Her own daughter Ketty, who is now a young woman herself, is currently attending university and studying to be an Agriculture Engineer. Man or woman, it is something no one in her family ever had the opportunity to do. Ketty is part of a new generation that has had the privilege of growing up with strong female role models. Erlita and her family are a manifestation of the Café Femenino® program and an inspiration to women across the world.
We are honored to bring Erlita's coffee to you through this special partnership with the Cafe Femenino® program. Click here to learn more.