Women Make Change

Gaining Ground: Nicaragua’s Women Coffee Farmers

One organisation helps women in rural Nicaragua to escape poverty by gaining land rights and farming skills.

Filmmaker: Lucy Kennedy

Coffee is one of the world’s most highly-traded commodities, and in Nicaragua, women undertake 70 percent of the work but own just 23 percent of the land, facilities, and products.

The lucrative tasks are done by men, who retain control over household incomes, while women’s work in agriculture tends to go unpaid and is slotted between other household chores.  

Fatima Ismael is committed to narrowing the gender gap in Nicaragua by creating work opportunities in the coffee business and helping women buy their own land.

The ultimate freedom for women is to have economic independence. When the first woman has the courage and can do it, then the others will follow.

by Fatima Ismael

Ismael’s organisation, the Union de Cooperativas Agropecuarias Soppexcca, was bankrupt when she took over, but it is now a thriving cooperative of 650 people.

In 2003, it became the first organisation to implement a gender-equality policy, and 32 others have since followed suit.

Her organisation works to help female farmers produce, manage, and market their own coffee and offers women producers credit to enable them to buy their own land. 

In this film, we meet Maxima Talavera, who – thanks to a loan from Soppexcca – has been able to improve her home and buy extra farm animals. 

She is now independent and able to provide for her children and ensure they attend school. 

Soppexcca also uses the proceeds of the business to help fund a health clinic to detect and treat women with cervical cancer – Nicaragua has the highest rate in the world – and has built seven local schools.