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For Margaret Watanabe, coffee is more than just a drink, ‘It’s an ingrained part of our social life and very much a part of our culture’.

Driven by concern over the drop of coffee production due to the impacts of climate change and the low market price of coffee, Watanabe and her husband started the Coffee Heritage Project in 2010.

The initiative is providing smallholder coffee farmers with the much needed on-farm investment and technical assistance, from organic farming techniques, coffee picking and processing, to facilitating their trademark registrations. In the highlands of Northern Sagada, Watanabe is working with mostly women farmers. ‘These women are farmers, mothers… and even if they know having trademarks can help protect their products, they just don’t have the time or the capacity to apply for it’, Watanabe said.

A recent study by the ARISE+ Intellectual Property Rights (ARISE+ IPR) project on the role and involvement of women in community-based industries related to IPR in ASEAN showed that women in ASEAN, especially those living in rural areas, like in Northern Sagada, often find themselves with limited access to economic opportunities. The study also highlighted the benefits of promoting IPR protection in women-led community-based industries.

‘By simply registering their brands, we are already protecting them from scammers’, Watanabe said.

ARISE+ IPR is one of the three components of the EU-funded Enhanced ASEAN Regional Integration Support (ARISE+). The project supports ASEAN regional integration through intellectual property cooperation and promotes upgrade of IP systems for creation, protection, utilisation, administration, and reinforcement, in line with international best practices and standards, as well as the strategic objectives of the ASEAN Intellectual Property Rights Action Plan 2016-2025.

For Watanabe, the next step is to launch an all women coffee brand, ‘My dream is to continue supporting women coffee farmers and help them support other women with jobs and knowledge sharing’.

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