Zinabua Birhanu is a coffee farmer and community leader living in Harfussa, Ethiopia. She is married with 19-year-old twins
I never dreamed that by the age of 30 I would be in such a good position, simply because I am a woman. Being a female coffee farmer here is unusual, but it’s just as rare to be a community leader – I only have this role because my husband is less keen on work.
I am proud to be one of three women and seven men on the Fairtrade Premium Committee. We democratically decide how to spend the premium we receive for selling our coffee to Fairtrade buyers. I have an equal say on the committee and I always defend my voice. That’s the one piece of advice I wish I could tell every woman – fight to be heard. Women might not be equal to men, but they can do everything that men can.
When I was growing up, my mother was an inspiration. Even when times were tough she would always put us first, sometimes missing meals herself to feed me. Today it can be just as challenging to make ends meet. There is only one coffee harvest a year, so if it’s poor or fails we struggle for food throughout the year. Even when there is a good harvest, 70% of my income is spent on food, leaving just 30% of my yearly wage for electricity, clothing and books. I’m lucky, I built my own home – a thatch house – so I don’t pay rent and I earn more than most: $2 (£1.45) per day is the poverty line and I earn an average of around $3 (£2.15), but money is always tight.
The key to happiness for me is simple – it’s being able to put food on the table for my family and, when I can afford it, a spoonful of sugar in my coffee.