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Ethiopia 2017

Western Ethiopia in 4 Days

(excerpt: full-story available here)

In this area of Ethiopia, lower-producing farms are spread out over larger areas, oftentimes overlapping or fully within large swaths of protected forest. Land ownership is an issue here, as estates bring in outsiders but bring roads, jobs, housing and schools. Smallholders are in an interesting position to gain from new laws allowing for more direct export as some of the country’s top cooperatives unite under the new Kata Maduga Union to triple their income over the past two years. In November 2017, we met farmers: new farmers known to customers as Girma Eshetu, Efrem and Kossa Geshe, and to Biftu Gudina, one of the 26 smallholder cooperatives that’s member to Kata Maduga.

We first saw the Emero Kaffa Estate, and conversed with Efrem about drying techniques. Though the harvest had just begun, Efrem’s drying trays were already thick with the first collection, and it was clear that Efrem would need more drying trays in order to scale up with the harvest. Last year Efrem’s farm was brand new; this year it had two blocks, a brick-making operation, huge drying capacity, an office and a warehouse, and we expect to see further progress. In addition to growing his volumes from 1 to 2 containers, Efrem set goals around investing in local schools and improving the roads. Day two brought us south of Jimma to farm of Girma Eshetu. While Girma’s farm is only a few years old he is growing fast; he planted 80,000 trees planted last year bringing his total up to 230k trees over 120 hectares. Last year Girma was producing ½ washed and ½ naturals, but due to the success of the washed coffees, changed to primarily washed coffees. The harvest plan is to split the farm in half, separating an eastern (Mirab) and western (Mizrak) block, and the season itself into three parts, giving us six ways to look at this coffee. On a small scale he is testing the impact of drying on high-quality burlap. Day three brought us to visit Abdulwahid and to the improvements at Kossa Geshe. These investments include two new dorm buildings, three new worker kitchens, bathrooms, hand washing stations, a kindergarten and a brand spanking new 75,000 sq. meter drying patio. And 90% of the compliance work requested from last year’s audit. On day four we visited the Keta Maduga Cooperative Union. In their first year Kata Maduga exported 57 containers, bringing in 6.9 million USD in revenue for their members. Parchment first dried under a protective shade on raised beds for 1 day, picked through to remove bug damage, skins, etc. From here the parchment is moved to open tables with the shade netting where it relaxes in gentle sunlight for 8 days. After this it’s to the grinder, but first the unknowing beans get a warm bath, soaking underwater for 10-12 hours to loosen everything up. Biftu’s success in quality can seen by their success as an organization. They added nearly ninety members since last year, and opened a second collection center / washing station.

Drying Techniques

On the Kossa Geshe Estate, Abdul is investing in a new drying system, raising beds for sorting for the first hour or two, and then moving the berries to a tarp on the patio. There’s a risk to changing a system that is currently working, but Abdul emphasizes his attention to detail and cites that they have already done a lab analysis for the coffee dried on the ground and found it led to better results.

Drying Techniques

On the Kossa Geshe Estate, Abdul is investing in a new drying system, raising beds for sorting for the first hour or two, and then moving the berries to a tarp on the patio. There’s a risk to changing a system that is currently working, but Abdul emphasizes his attention to detail and cites that they have already done a lab analysis for the coffee dried on the ground and found it led to better results.