Producer Profile: Oromia

Written by Cafe Campesino on Apr 1, 2008 in NEWSLETTER, Producer Profile |

The oldest independent country in Sub Saharan Africa and the only African country that has never been colonized, Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee. All varieties of coffee, whether grown in Asia or Africa, Central or South America, the islands of the Caribbean or Pacific, can trace their heritage to the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau. The mountains to the west of the the country’s Great Rift Valley are ideally suited to growing arabica coffee and the area traditionally produces some of the best coffee in the world.

Cafe Campesino’s Ethiopia Yirgacheffe is produced by small producer cooperatives in the Yirgacheffe region who work together with the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (OCFCU) to export their coffee directly to us. Founded in 1999 with 34 cooperative farms, OCFCU is now comprised of 129 member cooperatives (and 800,000 families). Yirgacheffe beans make up 15% and Sidamo beans account for 10.5% of Oromia’s total harvest. Oromia uses both the wet and dry methods of processing their coffee, which means that some of the harvested beans are washed and then cleaned for export and some of them are sun dried before they are cleaned, but are not washed.

From their offices in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia’s capital), OCFCU’s General Manager Tedesse Meskela and his staff help Ethiopia’s small farmers export their beans and assist in marketing, processing and credit issues. These days, Tadesse Meskela is somewhat of a celebrity in the Fair Trade coffee world. The film Black Gold, which received accolades at international film festivals and has been screened around the world (it’s showing at Georgia Tech on April 15th  see Community Caravan), is the story of his journey to London and Seattle in his quest for a long term solution for OCFCU’s coffee farmers.

Tadesse’s efforts and the continued support of Cafe Campesino and other fair traders have made a difference. Under the Fair Trade model, 70% of Oromia’s profits from sales and exports are distributed back to the individual farmer cooperatives that make up the whole. The cooperatives then distribute 70% of the net profit back to the member farmers as dividends and 30% is reserved for cooperative projects and savings. With their Fair Trade premiums, coop members have constructed four schools, two health clinics and a clean water supply. They now have a cupping lab located at their office and are in the process of constructing two warehouses. And they hope to have their own processing plant within the next three years. This progress is truly a testament to the power of Fair Trade.

Read more about Oromia on their website.

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