“Women are starting to speak up more. In the past this was not common. There was not an opportunity for women to participate,” says Lopez. “But there are many women in coffee. Especially if we talk about quality coffee, where you can see women playing important roles.”
As co-founder of Witoca, Lopez is the living role model of that for the women and girls of the region, showing what women can accomplish. And Lopez believes that if Witoca is to deliver a high-quality product and grow into a successful business, involving women is vital.
“Details, quality, being meticulous in every step of the process—all these are guaranteed when there are women participating,” she insists.
When it does become successful, and Witoca is bringing greater income to the region, the participation of women will also be essential in ensuring that translates into real growth and prosperity for communities.
“The new income that comes from quality, it must also get into the hands of women who are the ones that are going to invest in the family.”
That’s not just Lopez’ opinion. Research in vulnerable communities around the world has borne out that when women are income earners, they invest 90 per cent of their income back into their family for the health and education of their children—boys and girls equally. There is a proven multiplier effect: when one woman is empowered to lift herself out of poverty, she brings at least four others with her.
For now, Lopez and Legarda are focusing on building the capacity of Witoca in every part of the value chain.
“It is important children in the community can see that coffee not only is harvested and shipped, but it is also being processed, there’s somebody tasting it, serving it. So now they can see themselves doing that and dream about working in different areas of production,” says Lopez.
And bit by bit, those children are coming to see a future that doesn’t require leaving home behind.
“There’s an impact here that is silent, slow, but it is seeping through the new generations.”