First-person perspectives on the world of work
Photo: Francisco Cruz Anaya
Occupational Safety and Health

Good coffee, safe lives

My name is Briseida Venegas Ramos. I am from the Ixhuatlán coffee community in Veracruz, Mexico, where my family has been working the land for more than 100 years. For us coffee is life.

I followed in the path of my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents by becoming a full-time farmer. I am currently the president of an agricultural cooperative - the Cooperativa Campesinos en Lucha Agraria of the Vida AC organization. My aunt held the same position before me.

I am proud to farm the land. I was born here. My roots are here.

Briseida Venegas RamosPresident of a female-led coffee cooperative in Mexico

I am proud to farm the land. I was born here. My roots are here.

We have strong connections with local schools, families, producers, and coffee roasters, and try to build alliances between them.

Briseida presses a tortilla into shape in the background. In the foreground an older woman pours whisked egg onto a tortilla, that is cooking over an open fire.

Cooking tortillas is hungry work!

© Francisco Cruz Anaya

Being a coffee producer means waking up at six in the morning, going to the mill, making tortillas, after that checking the planting or harvesting. Sometimes we finish the day at around nine or ten a clock at night. It’s tiring.

I remember once, I was working with a machine and my hands were wet. I flipped a switch and sparks flew out. It was scary! I learned that I have to dry my hands when handling the machinery. Now I am more careful.

We learned about an ILO safety and health programme from a group of fellow coffee farmers we met at the International Coffee Summit.

A group of our members completed the course in January 2021.

Briseida Venegas Ramos uses a hoe to clear weeds on a patch of soil. She wears a knife in a holster attached to her belt.

I’m much more careful now about how I use sharp tools.

© Francisco Cruz Anaya

Before the course, we didn’t have any specific rules to prevent accidents.

Afterwards we realised that we needed to check the state of our machinery on a regular basis, especially the older ones that were not being maintained. We realised that we needed to fix the light switch on one of them.

The course gave us important guidance on the use of sharp tools. It also taught us to think about wearing protective clothing and avoiding heavy lifting. We learned that it isn’t healthy to work from 9am to 9pm. Now we make sure that both men and women do their fair share, both in and out of the house.

Briseida Venegas Ramos stands in front of a screen which shows ILO safety and health messages.

Our knowledge of safety and health at work has improved.

© Francisco Cruz Anaya

We wanted to spread the word among our members, so at one of our meetings we presented the course and trained everyone who was there.

Today, our colleagues are using what they learned to improve their quality of life, stay healthy, and prevent accidents at work.

A woman puts coffee into a machine, Briseida Venegas Ramos stands next to her and smiles.

Passing on the knowledge we have learned has made us all feel safer.

© Francisco Cruz Anaya

Although our knowledge of safety and health at work has improved, some things will never change. We have one goal: to succeed as a family. To do that, we will continue to expand our cooperative, with a focus on producing high-quality coffee, ensuring health and safety, and promoting environmentally-friendly practices.

In the future, I envision my coffee family with a bountiful harvest, all of us working in harmony and in good health.

Briseida Venegas Ramos carries a bag of coffee beans and walks along a path with another woman. Tall green plants stand either side of them.

As small family producers, coffee is life, and we must continue to pass on our farming traditions to the next generation.

© Francisco Cruz Anaya

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