#GenderMetrics: The Practicalities of Data Collection for Gender Equity in Coffee

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“Keep it Simple”

Whether your company is just beginning to collect data about gender equity - or you are reaching thousands of farmers with one survey - keep the data collection process simple to better ensure you get quality data. This was one of the takeaways of the Partnership for Gender Equity’s virtual roundtable with leaders in the coffee sector about the practicalities of collecting data about gender equity in their companies. And it is possible to keep it simple. Below are the lessons – and challenges – that emerged from that roundtable discussion with sustainability experts from Sustainable Harvest, S&D Coffee and Tea, and Kyagalanyi Coffee Ltd.

Know ahead of time how you will use the gender data you collect

The data you collect and how you collect it will depend on how you intend to use it. There are typically four different ways that coffee companies use the gender data they collect:

1.    to assess the impact of practices and how it differs for women and men; 

2.    to report to donors who fund a specific project the company is implementing to address gender equity and other sustainability issues in the sector;  

3.    to inform the company’s operations and business practices; and,

4.    to justify company investments in gender.

Sustainable Harvest, S&D, and Kyagalanyi all use gender data for each of these purposes. “Most importantly, we want to understand how our practices impact gender equality,” said Jeronimo Bollen, Director of Impact and Sustainability at Sustainable Harvest.

If your company wants to use the data to justify its investments in gender, you need to be able to analyze it alongside other variables. Speaking for Kyagalanyi, Anneke Fermont, Sustainability Manager, said that assessing the impact of their gender programs on other variables such as coffee production and yields is “very key” to making the business case for the company’s investments in those programs. Similarly, Olga Cuellar, the Sustainability Strategy Leader with S&D said, “We want to be able to correlate [gender] with other areas … in terms of productivity and economic viability. We need to be able to combine that data with other aspects of coffee production.”

Integrate questions about gender into your regular data collection process

All three companies spoke about how they incorporate questions on gender into their regular, annual surveys and data collection processes. For a particular project, they’ll also use this approach during data collection efforts at the beginning and end of a project.

For example, Sustainable Harvest collects data annually from its suppliers, which are typically producer organizations in Latin America, about gender differences in membership, employment, and pay, through “a broader survey about impact that includes gender issues.” But, Bollen adds, “there’s a tradeoff. When you do it in an integrated way it is more efficient… while in a stand-alone survey you can go much more in-depth.” 

Particularly if you are collecting data from or through partner producer organizations, integrated surveys are also easier for them to implement.

Dig deeper into complex gender equity issues through a stand-alone survey

Panelists agreed that collecting gender data through an integrated, multi-purpose survey will get you the basic information you need about gender parity in your programs and supply chain operations. However, to dig deeper into more complex issues like changes in gender roles and decision-making within coffee farming households, a stand-alone survey focused on gender equity is the way to go.

As Fermont explained, “a stand-alone [gender-focused] survey gives you [an] opportunity to go into depth in your questions, particularly questions around household behavior change. Those are challenging questions to get good quality responses to if you use an integrated approach [to collecting gender data].”

A stand-alone gender surveys can address more complex issues than your regular, integrated survey.

Who collects the gender data? It depends.

All three companies use their own staff to collect gender data, although the strategies differ. Sustainable Harvest and S&D, for example, collect data through producer organization partners who supply their coffee. For them, the priority is supporting their partners to be able to collect, use, and report quality data as efficiently as they can.

In S&D, agronomists on staff work with partners to collect data. “We work with them, train them, give them guidance and support - but we allow them to also lead,” says Cuellar. She adds that they have to adapt their data collection processes to the circumstances and systems partners use already. Some of their partners are technologically savvy and use tablets or cell phones to collect their data, whereas others use pens and paper. 

Kyagalanyi collects gender data directly from the farmers who are part of their Farmer Support Program in Uganda, which reaches 20,000 households. Since the company works directly with farmers,  it has a network of 80 farmer support staff throughout the (rural) regions where they work that collect data using smart phone apps.  The majority of the field staff have completed basic schooling. This has consequences for data quality.

“We have to be very careful with our surveys,” says Fermont. This is when “keeping it simple” is especially important. They do so by ensuring the questions are worded simply, using close-ended questions, building in automated checks and providing detailed manuals and supervision in the field. 

The burden of data collection demands: how can we make data collection easier on farmers and coffee companies? 

During the roundtable discussion, one of the participants asked about the burden of data collection on farmers, if they have to fill out multiple surveys every year, and whether companies are sharing data to mitigate this burden. 

Various demands from donors and buyers make this especially difficult. Sustainable Harvest approaches this challenge by focusing on helping producer partners have the data and information readily available so that once the survey is received from the donor or buyer, it is easy for them to fill it out. Often, says Bollen, “all the information is there at the producer partner, but they have difficulties getting their hands on the information. So, we are focusing more on helping them do that so that it is less of a drag on them to fill out the surveys.”

Fermont also agreed that it is a challenge to have to constantly adjust annual surveys to meet funding demands. In addition, she adds, we have to recognize that indicators and surveys need to be applicable to various contexts in which companies work and farmers grow coffee: “it is very difficult to make KPIs that are so simple that they could be applied across all regions, crops, and agroecological areas where you work. It is very challenging. But we need to address it because we would not like our staff to go into the field with three different apps to collect data.” 

The PGE #GenderMetrics Hub as a platform for collaboration

Another common solution is aligning questions with standards, like Fair Trade, so that suppliers are being asked similar questions. However, there are few standards for gender equity in coffee, which is one of the reasons the Partnership for Gender Equity has launched this Hub, to dig deeper into this question about how coffee companies can work together to more efficiently and effectively collect and use the data they need.

“We need to do a lot of work as an industry to have more consistent ways to ask the same question [about gender equity in coffee]” said Cuellar. She adds, “there have to be more coffee companies who collect the data and share the data in an organized way.” 

Learn more about how these companies, along with Starbucks, are measuring gender equity in the Partnership for Gender Equity's #GenderMetrics Industry Snapshot

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 This article was written for the #GenderMetrics Learning and Innovation Hub, an initiative of the Partnership for Gender Equity with support from the Global Coffee Platform. Thank you to Lindsey Jones-Renaud, Anneke Fermont, Jerónimo Bollen, Olga Cuellar, and Sarah Eissler for their contributions.