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DELIVERING ON A PROMISE TO RETURN MORE VALUE TO PRODUCERS  Perhaps the best word to describe Kata Maduga Union is meteoric.  In 2009, funded by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation Technoserve (TNS) began working in Ethiopia. Theirs was a two-fold mission to improve the value (quality) of coffees, and to find how producers can receive a higher percentage of the value they were creating. Since 2009, over sixty washing stations were created, with the Agaro region coops quickly taking their place at the top of the quality spectrum for washed Ethiopians in the West.To give you an idea of just how fast this was, here’s a small timetable.

Biftu Gudina was founded in 2012, Duromina coop in 2010.  The term ‘Jimma 4’ (synonymous at the time with cheap + dirty) was what western Ethiopia was know for. Against this backdrop (and prices), Biftu, Duromina and a handful of other Agaro region coops began producing competition-caliber qualities.  Within a couple years they had attracted the attention of specialty buyers and started rising to international fame; these folks were winning competitions (Nordic Roasting 2015, Good Food Award 2014).

Unfortunately, their coffees still had to be sold through the Oromia Union; a gigantic Union with close to 300 member coops, representing over 100,000 growers.  The nicest way to put it would be that small efforts often get lost in a large businesses – and this was (at best) the case with the Oromia Union.  They just weren’t the right partner for these rising stars in the west.

And so, in 2016, only 4-6 years after the establishment of these coops, they banded together to represent themselves.  Kata Maduga Union was founded to become the marketer and exporter, bringing together 35 of the over 60 coops created through the TNS work.  This was the first new Coop Union that Ethiopia had seen in decades, and it was starting out with star-studded roster.

The last two years have been a huge test for a new organization.  Certainly, this was and still is a vulnerable time for the nascent Union. In the driver’s seat is not a safe place to learn, but they have expertly navigated the twists and kinks that always come with a first time exporter dealing with large volumes and a finicky specialty buyers.  The CEO of Kata Maduga, Asnake, has managed the business well, and this is the second successful year for Kata Maduga.  The proof is in the pudding as they say.  Quality is great.  Prices are good…despite the fall of the C-market farmer receipts are growing!

In their first year Kata Maduga exported 57 containers from 19 cooperatives, making nearly 7 million dollars. Premiums back to Cooperatives funded massive growth in the communities where we work – Biftu Gudina brought electricity to their town, repaired a road and invested 1.2m birr into schools.

On average farmers in Africa only expect to capture 61% of export value of their coffee.   Producers that work with Kata Maduga are receiving higher prices through the good representation, and will bring home almost 80% of the FOB export value of their coffee.

See a breakdown from export back to farm-gate pricing, here.

Most recently Asnake wrote to inform us that Duromina’s 278 members were given a dividend of 5,000,000 Birr this year.  If we did the math right that’s 650USD per producer in premiums.  In addition, coop dues paid for a new primary and secondary school and new electricity infrastructure for coop members. Honestly, remarkable.

The cups are delicate.  Tea-like bodies let high residual sugars and subtle but sweet flavors shine –  agave, florals and stonefruit acidity.  These are beautiful cups that are the result of an unimaginable effort – that has transformed washed coffees from the west, and returned that value right back to the growers.