In the run up to International Women’s Day, we are featuring some of the countless inspiring women who work in Fairtrade farms and communities. Today, meet Pham thi Huyen Anh, one of the first women to chair a coffee cooperative in Vietnam.
Growing up on a coffee farm in the central Highlands of Vietnam, Pham thi Huyen Anh never wanted to become a coffee farmer.
“In my mind, being a coffee farmer was extremely difficult and stressful work”, explains Pham. “The farmers must not only work hard to face unpredictable weather and various threats posed by climate change but also battle against the constant price fluctuation.”
But after starting to work for a Fairtrade coffee cooperative around ten years ago, Pham’s view changed. Now, she is Chairwoman of the Po Ko Fair Agricultural Cooperative (known as Pô Kô Farms). Not only that, she sits on the Board of Fairtrade’s Network of Asian producers, representing the voice of the next generation of coffee farmers.
“Today I am the chairwoman of Pô Kô Farms because of Fairtrade. I appreciate all the good things that I have learned from it. We have made the structure of Pô Kô Farms much stronger to improve the income of our coffee farmers, to allow women farmers to develop and shape a future for themselves, their families and their community, and to provide educational support to our kids in the region.”
Pô Kô Farms is based in Kon Tum Province, in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, one of the country’s most favourable areas for coffee growing. Coffee is the main source of income for the cooperatives small-scale farmers, so unstable prices and their dependence on natural conditions made their lives very difficult. Pô Kô Farms was one of the first Vietnamese coffee cooperatives to become Fairtrade certified. In 2009, 43 farmers (six of them women) formed a farmers group. By 2017 the producer organization had grown to 118 members, with women making up almost half of them. At this time, Pô Kô Farms decided to bring about a change in its governance structure, by encouraging the younger generation and women to be part of their board. It is one of the few cooperatives in Vietnam that has female board members and a chairwoman.
“As a woman and a coffee farmer hailing from a very remote area of Vietnam, I can clearly relate to and understand the challenges faced by the women in our region. Therefore, we encourage women to be more confident to raise their voice”, says Pham.
The cooperative has invested in several projects and activities to support women and children, including houses for underprivileged families, a kindergarten and scholarships for children. They also seek to create jobs for women wherever possible: Most of the cooperative staff are daughters of coffee farmers.
Pham is clear that Fairtrade has really made a difference to the lives of the farmers, and their cooperative.
“The Fairtrade Premium and learnings received from Fairtrade’s Standards, policies, and programs have brought about amazing changes in the way we run and conduct our business….Today Pô Kô Farms is recognized as one of the renowned Fairtrade coffee cooperatives in Vietnam that provides high-quality robusta coffee.”
“Fairtrade has changed our way of thinking, not only by focussing on providing good quality coffee but also supporting each other and strengthening our community to shape a better life for all our coffee farmers and their families.”