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  • Women in Agriculture Series: The Changing Role of Women in Coffee – Part 1 of 2

Women in Agriculture Series: The Changing Role of Women in Coffee – Part 1 of 2

Women in Agriculture Series: The Changing Role of Women in Coffee – Part 1 of 2
Lesbia Morales

Lesbia Morales, President of the Farmer Committee of the Highlands (CCDA)

To mark International Day of Rural Women we are excited to kick off our Root Capital blog and share with you the first of two audio stories. These stories were produced for us by Wesley Weissberg, a dear supporter of Root Capital and an advocate of our Women in Agriculture Initiative. Last November, Wesley traveled into the rural highlands of Guatemala to speak with the women members of coffee cooperatives. What she captured was the changing role of women amidst a country still healing from years of civil war. In this first piece (Lesbia Morales and the CCDA), Wesley shared her reflections from an interview with a woman leader who is pushing the boundaries in her own community. Below, you can read excerpts from an interview with Wesley. 

Listen to: Lesbia Morales and the CCDA

Wesley Weissberg (left)

Wesley Weissberg (left) interviewed women leaders and producers working in the coffee industry while in Guatemala.

Tell us a little bit about your professional background, specifically your reporting experience and what you have produced?

I worked at NPR and for the BBC and Australia’s ABC producing live radio shows and taped shows in front of live audiences – public radio call in (Talk of the Nation, Australia Talks Back), Variety (Talk of New York), and quiz shows (Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me).  That feels like a long time ago, but it exposed me to a lot of different people and topics and gave me a strong sense of radio.  More recently I have been working in long format documentary, getting more in depth into subjects and getting to know people’s stories.

You interviewed the female president of a coffee cooperative in this first audio piece. Is there anything about her you would like readers to know that didn’t make it into your story?

Lesbia was the only woman in the room who wore pants. None of the men or women wore traditional Guatemalan dress, but the other women were all dressed in traditionally feminine western clothing, bright colored, fitted shirts and skirts. Lesbia wore a tan polo shirt with the logo of the cooperative and black trousers.  She didn’t speak until we spoke to her, but when she spoke she was like no one else in the room.  We had gone around with the microphone to ask some basic questions, which most of them answered quickly, in a quiet voice.  When we got to Lesbia, she had so much to say, and she spoke with force and passion. I wasn’t sure if she had expressed her views so passionately in front of her colleagues before.  It was exciting to see.

Your family foundation is both a donor and an investor in Root Capital. How did your time on this project influence the way you think about the use of your financial support?

This is my second trip with Root Capital, so I already have a sense of the close relationships that are formed between the Root Capital staff in Cambridge and the growers on the ground.  There are many layers in between but all are in communication and share a single goal.  But I can say that the opportunity to see the work on the ground gave me a sense of the organization that I could never have arrived at.  I was grateful for the opportunity.

coffee cherries

Ripe coffee cherries waiting to be processed.

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