The Oromia Coffee Farmers’ Co-operative Union (OCFCU) was founded in June 1999, and is the largest Fair Trade coffee producer in Ethiopia. The co-operative requested and received permission from the government to become a direct exporter of its members coffee, therefore bypassing the central auction and giving more control and market share to the producer.
Oromia has a total of 34 co-ops, with a total of 22,743 farmers. Eight of these co-ops currently export under FLO conditions. Last year they exported 947MT of Fairtrade coffee.
The region where the coffee is grown covers 40% of Ethiopia in the central, western, eastern and southern areas. The total area cultivated by the co-operatives is 163,192 hectares; of this 50,692 is certified organic. With the OCFCU being allowed to exclusively deliver the coffee by bypassing the auction, this also enables them to control and maintain their own quality standards during the whole process.
Oromia coffee farmer
Traditionally agrochemicals have never been used; instead environmentally sound methods developed over generations have thrived. All of the coffee is shade grown amongst acacias and oaks. The fallen leaves and decaying plant matter, along with animal manure, help to enrich the soil.
The coffee bushes are interspersed with plants such as cardamom and ginger, fruits such as papaya, mangoes and avocadoes, and root crops such as sweet potatoes. This intercropping helps to enhance the fertility of the soil, further enriching this already chemical free area.
The growers receive agricultural advice on pruning, picking, handling/processing and the storing of the coffee in order to improve the quality standard.
Assistance is given from government agricultural and co-operative bureau and Union level that have over 20 years experience in this field.
FAIR TRADE INVESTMENT
Revenue from Fairtrade sales have allowed co-operative members to purchase two washing stations, and Oromia has developed a fund for the repair of de-pulping machines to safeguard the organisations capacity to produce high quality, washed Arabica.
The co-operative provides technical assistance to its members, including workshops on composting the by-products of coffee production and utilising shade trees and natural fertilisers to enrich the soil.
WHAT TYPE OF COFFEE
Oromia grow six different types of coffee:
- Yirgacheffe – medium body, tart acidity, floral aroma
- Sidammo –pleasantly sweet, balanced acidity
- Limu – balanced flavour, good acidity, medium body
- Lekemptl – light acidity, rich, balanced cup
- Jima and Harrar –uniquely fruity, spicey flavour, medium acidity, heavy body.
Equal Exchange was the first company in the UK to become licensed distributors of Yirgacheffe coffee, when trademarks covering the coffee were established in 2007. The Ethiopian Coffee and Trademarking Intitiative aims to develop the country’s coffee industry and keep more of the value of its internationally-renown coffees with farmers and their communities.