Producer Profile: Ethiopia’s Oromia Co-op

Written by Cafe Campesino on Nov 1, 2006 in NEWSLETTER, Producer Profile |
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Café Campesino is proud to be one of Oromia’s trading partners and able to offer Oromia’s Fair Trade, organic wet-processed Sidamo and Yirgacheffe coffees and dry-processed/sun dried Harrar coffee.

Established in June of 1999, the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (OCFCU) is named after the Oromia region in Ethiopia. The men and women of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union — nearly 74,000 farmer members organized into 74 cooperatives — are the growers, processors and exporters of high quality, organic Arabica coffee. Sixty-five percent of the country’s coffee production, which involves approximately 425,300 households, is from this region. The coffee in the Oromia region is shade grown and is bird friendly.

OCFCU’s objectives are:

  • To improve the farmer’s income by exporting their coffee
  • To maintain the quality of coffee production
  • To improve and maintain the sustainability of the coffee industry
  • To improve the quality and productivity of Ethiopian coffee
  • To regulate and stabilize local markets
  • To provide farmers and clients with reliable service

OCFCU’s Coffee production:

Coffee production in the Oromia region is classified into four categories: 1) forest, 2) semi-forest, 3) garden, and 4) plantation. The members of OCFCU practice the first three of the four categories, though the majority of the union’s coffee production falls into the Garden Coffee category, which means the members’ coffee is grown in gardens close to the their homes. Garden coffee is found in all zones and districts of the Oromia region and provides for average yields of 600 to 800 kilos per hectare. Garden category coffee farmers inter-plant their coffee bushes with food crops and shade trees such as:

Spices — cardamom, pepper, jinger

Fruits and vegetables — papaya, mango, avocado

Roots — sweet potato, enset, boyina

Pulses — beans, peas, and soya beans

Forage — lucina, saspaniya

Shade trees — cordial, oak, acacia albizia

OCFCU is unique in that it has retained relative autonomy in its operations, maintaining full control over all activities associated with the production of its members’ coffees. To date, OCFCU has put into place a robust, well-developed processing infrastructure, which includes: 48 Pulperies; 15 hulleries, and 63 warehouses. Further, OCFCU has obtained special permission to by-pass the auction market and sell directly to importers such as Cooperative Coffees, of which Café Campesino is a founding member.

OCFCU receives its organic certification from BCS Oko Garantie in Numberg, Germany. Inspections are carried out three times a year on the coffee farms by independent inspectors. Supervision is carried out twice a year by BCS Oko Garantie top management. Oromia is also a member of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and the Eastern Africa Fine Coffee Association (EAFCA).

The Bottom Line: OCFCU Improves Lives

Seventy percent of the Union’s profits from selling and exporting coffee are distributed back to the 74 cooperatives. The cooperatives then distribute these dividends back to the farmer-members or to reinvest in capacity building assets. The other 30% of the Union’s profits are used for expansion of capacity building assets, for reserves against poor harvest years, and for community development.

Farmers are not required to sell all of their coffee to the Cooperative Union. Thus, the success of the Union depends on a fair price being paid to the farmer-members for their coffee.

Another way the Union shows its support for the farmers is by undertaking community improvement projects. In the past year four new schools were constructed as well as three health centers and two clean water supplies. By working together, farmer-members are able to pool their resources. This democratic system benefits individual farmers-members and their communities.

Source: www.oromiacoffeeunion.org.

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