Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and yet the fourth poorest country in the world. Coffee farmers live a very traditional lifestyle, farming fewer than 5 acres and living in stick houses. Electricity, running water and indoor plumbing are rare in rural areas.
The Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (OCFCU) is an exporting cooperative with offices in Addis Ababa and affiliated farmer cooperatives located throughout the coffee growing regions of Ethiopia. Oromia was established in 1999 to facilitate the direct exportation of coffee produced by Ethiopia's small farmers and assist in marketing, processing, and credit issues.
Oromia is a well organized umbrella organization responsible for processing, marketing, and commercializing coffee for its members. The union is comprised of 405 cooperatives, gathering over 370,000 farmer households as of 2019. OCFCU works exclusively in Oromia Regional State, which accounts for 65 percent of the country’s total coffee growing land and includes coffees from Limu, Yirgacheffe, Nekemte, Jimma, Sidamo, Neqemte/ Ghimbi, and Harrar. Of the co-ops, only about 10% by volume is Fair Trade certified by FLO (2019).
Establishing a direct relationship with the farmers is always an important aspect of Cooperative Coffees' mission. But as one of their first buyers and the first foreign importer to meet the farmers, the impact appears all the more dramatic in Ethiopia.
“Before, people would not come here, but treat us like animals and oppress us,” said the elder Tasew Gebru of the Nagelle Gorbitu Cooperative. “We appreciate your efforts, and to help us improve our lives; we really have seen an improvement in the last two years.” With the Fair Trade premiums they have greatly improved local infrastructure in several of the coops: they've constructed five primary schools, four health clinics, and one bridge. Projects aimed at providing a clean water supply and stable electricity have also been undertaken. They now have a cupping lab located at their office and are in the process of constructing two warehouses. In Coop Coffees last visit, they were in the midst of creating their own processing center and had recently opened a coopertive bank which offers service to all members. OROMIA also provides its farmers with insurance options to cover coffee against loss. "Fair Trade has done a lot," general manager Tadesse Meskela says. "But it still needs a lot more promotion."
Social Premium Investment: 2023 Crop YearFair Trade Certification guarantees 20 cents/lb of the price paid a producer organization is set aside as a social premium. How this money is invested is a decision taken collectively by the general assembly of members at the end of each harvest. Below is a break down of how producers in this organization chose to spend their fair trade premium.
Community DevelopmentSupport for road clearance and maintenance. Support for water projects.
Improve YieldsSupport for farmer trainings and workshops on good agricultural practices. Support for tree nurseries.
EducationSupport for local primary schools, kinder gardens and high schools