Zelia Oliveira is a farmer in the Minas Gerais section of the Mantiqueira Mountains in southeastern Brazil. Zelia is a member of AMECAFÉ - the Association of Coffee Women Entrepreneurs in Serra da Mantiqueira. AMECAFÉ was founded in 2015, with 28 women, and now has 154 members throughout Minas Gerais. The group’s membership requirement is simple - each woman must register a farmer ID number in her own name - not her husband’s, as is standard in Brazil. Whether they own their own farms or work on other members’ farms, their shared goals are to increase financial independence, improve product quality, and enlarge their market recognition. So far, they’ve done excellently - several members of AMECAFÉ have won awards in quality-focused competitions and auctions, and they have trademarked a Seal of Geographic Indication for their coffees. In addition to their social and structural points of emphasis, producers in this part of Serra da Mantiqueira are exceptional in Brazil for their comparatively small scale, decent elevation, selective harvesting-by-hand, and meticulous two-stage drying process.
In addition to her involvement with AMECAFÉ, Zelia has participated in the Lambari Project, which became the first group of smallholder producers in the world to receive Rainforest Alliance Certification, in 2019. Both the Lambari Project and AMECAFÉ have benefited from collaboration with Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung do Brazil, a coffee-focused non-profit. Specifically with AMECAFÉ, HRNS has made contributions ranging from $100 toward cinderblocks for building construction, to $10,000 toward a septic tank project. This dialog-driven approach to collaborative impact has perfectly suited the women of AMECAFÉ, and accelerated the ascent of their local, regional, and global recognition.
This year, Zelia did not submit any of her coffees for auction or competition. Nonetheless, our importing partners at InterAmerican chose to purchase this lot and keep it isolated from other AMECAFÉ contributions, the majority of which will be blended and sold under the names AMECAFÉ or Mantiqueira. This coffee is hand-picked, and dry-processed on patios before finishing in mechanical dryers.