Who does FTAO work with? Women & Trade

The unshakeable Ketiara coffee family

The unshakeable Ketiara coffee family

Earthquakes may ruin homes and damage villages, but nothing can shake the sense of family at the Indonesian coffee cooperative Ketiara.

Ibu Rahmah is the founder of Indonesia’s Ketiara Coffee Cooperative. She is also a wife, a mother, a coffee farmer, the co-op chairwoman... in short, says the co-op’s manager, Lina: “She is everything to Ketiara.”

The title that best fits her, though, is mother. Rahmah brought Ketiara to life in 2009, helped it grow to become Fairtrade certified in 2012, and is constantly working to improve the cooperative’s future.

She laughs when she’s described as the mother of Ketiara, but admits she does feel a special bond with the co-op’s nearly 1,000 members.

“They are my children,” she said.

Kopepi Ketiara

 The Ketiara family

They may not be blood-relatives, but the bond that Ketiara members share through coffee is an important one – with no other major crop in the region, it’s all many farmers have to earn a living. Most farms are family-owned, and the average plot is around one hectare (about 1.5 football fields) in the mountainous region (1,200-1,500 meters) of Indonesia’s Central Aceh Regency. The forested soil is fertile and conditions are perfect for Arabica coffee. Fruits and vegetables also grow well, and there are plenty of native plants and animals sharing the slopes with the farmers; but most available space is devoted to coffee.

“Ketiara is the source of livelihood for us now,” said Lina, who recently became a mother herself. “I expect this will be the case for our daughters and our granddaughters in the future, also.”

Based on Ketiara’s success in the few short years since it began, her daughter’s future will be a bright one. The co-op began small in 2009 with just 39 members, but has quickly grown to almost 1,000 members from 15 villages in the region. Just one year after their certification, Ketiara was able to sell 174,600 kilograms of Fairtrade organic coffee and 137,160 kilograms of non-Fairtrade organic coffee – a significant increase from the early days when Rahmah was working as a small trader buying just a few kilos of hand-processed coffee cherries.

In addition to a positive outlook for the business, the next generation at Ketiara will likely enjoy educational opportunities that weren’t always available in this part of Indonesia. Rahmah recalls that while she did go to school when she was growing up, she sat on the floor since there were no tables and chairs, and she had no more than sandals to cover her feet.

“It is much more comfortable for children now,” she said. “They have shoes, they have good transportation to school, and the schools have good equipment.”

A better life for the future

The cooperative is making long-term investments. They used their initial Fairtrade Premium money for environmental protection measures such as planting avocado trees on the steep slopes. The trees help prevent landslides and also provide an additional source of income. Additional investment in education is one of the co-op’s primary goals for future Premium use.

Striving toward a better tomorrow has always been a priority for Rahmah and Ketiara, something that dates back to her own childhood as the daughter and granddaughter of coffee farmers.

“As coffee farmers, we want to secure a better life in the future,” Rahmah said. “In the past, we sold our coffee to a middleman. A middleman keeps the price very low. That's why we established a cooperative, to increase our income from the coffee.”

Establishing a co-op has certainly had financial benefits for Ketiara, but the wealth of a family isn’t measured in dollars and cents.

“The value in Ketiara is about a sense of becoming a big family,” Rahmah said, joking that anyone unwilling to call themselves a part of the family is welcome to find another co-op. “Ketiara has so many brothers and sisters. The feeling of becoming united together is very important to us, whether we are happy or sad.”

A helping hand

The true test of a family comes when times are tough, which has unfortunately been the case at Ketiara recently. On July 2, an earthquake shook the region and caused damage to some of the villages where Ketiara’s farmers live. The coffee fields were not affected, but some members have called on their Ketiara family for help in repairing the damage. It’s a call that is quickly answered.


“Of course we are helping together,” Rahmah said. “The members are very actively reporting to us if there is some accident in the village, and we come help together.”

Lina adds, “We are helping each other as a big family.”

That is what Rahmah, the proud mother of Ketiara, values the most about her cooperative.

“Ketiara has fallen in love with its members, and the members fall in love with Ketiara,” she said.


Further reading

FTAO Newsletter Articles: 

Equal harvest: Report on the gender gap in smallholder agriculture (March 2015)

Fair Trade celebrates the International Women's Day with #WomenForChange (March 2015)

Time to celebrate the important role of women in Fair Trade (March 2014)

Interesting Documents and Articles: 

On the website of Fairtrade International there are stories of women who, through their commitment and dedication have been a great inspiration to the movement over the past years. Also find a slideshow on Women and Fair Trade and a report of the next steps that will be taken to support women in Fair Trade. 

The World Fair Trade Organization published a Women 's Month special edition of its update called “Empowering women through Fair Trade”. The publication provides an analysis of how micro-credits have helped women to realize their dreams; presents a book on Fair Trade called “Trading Our Way Up, Women Organizing for Fair Trade” and celebrates the Indian Fair Trade organisations' 30 years of helping destitute women. 

The Belgian Development Agency published a report on Fair Trade and women, available in French and Dutch.

Fair Trade and gender by Oxfam Magasins du Monde (in French) published an article Femmes et commerce équitable, un couple qui fonctionne!


The unshakeable Ketiara coffee family


Earthquakes may ruin homes and damage villages, but nothing can shake the sense of family at the Indonesian coffee cooperative Ketiara.


Ibu Rahmah is the founder of Indonesia’s Ketiara Coffee Cooperative. She is also a wife, a mother, a coffee farmer, the co-op chairwoman... in short, says the co-op’s manager, Lina: “She is everything to Ketiara.” 


Women & Trade

According to the UN, women do more than 67% of the hours of work done in the work, earn only 10% of the world’s income and own only 1% of the world’s property. On average women are paid 30-40% less than men for comparable work, but in many developing countries women regularly do not receive remuneration for their work at all.

Rural women constitute ¼ of the world’s population. They account for a great proportion of the agricultural labour force, produce the majority of food grown and perform most of the unpaid care work in rural areas (UN Women).

While the Fair Trade concept is well-known for the way it enables small producers in the South to work their way out of poverty, people may not always recognize Fair Trade as a best practice in addressing gender inequality.

According to a study by the Fair Trade Federation, 70% of Fair Trade  artisans are female and although, on average, men are the majority of Fair Trade farmers here too Fair Trade makes an important difference for women, for instance because “ equal pay for equivalent work ” is an important Fair Trade principle.

The most recent Fairtrade International monitoring report indicated that women represent 20 percent of farmers and 47 percent of hired workers in Fairtrade. Taken together, one in four Fair Trade producers are women. Women are active in all aspects of Fair Trade, from farming to Processing, and in some cases, management of producer organisations and cooperatives.


What are FTAO's views?

Further reading

What are FTAO´s views?

FTAO strives to encourage policy makers to ensure fair wages, labour rights and decent working conditions for rural women and men. This includes pushing for policies that promote Fair Trade, fair and stable prices for food and agriculture.

By using positive examples from the Fair Trade movement’s experiences, FTAO shows policy makers that supporting and adapting policies to have a positive gender bias will enhance the empowerment and development of communities. 


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