The Oromia Coffee Farmers’ Co-operative Union was founded in 1999 by 35 small certified organic cooperatives. Its members are indigenous farmers located in the vast Oromia State of southern and southwest Ethiopia which produces 65% of the country’s coffee. The farms are located in mountainous, rainforest areas at altitudes of 1,500 to 2,000 meters where electricity and running water are rare.
The coffee grown by the founding co-ops is organic, forest-grown and bird-friendly. Its high quality is achieved through environmentally sound methods developed over generations – organic, chemical-free farming and intercropping with food crops to enhance soil fertility. 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; acacias and oaks provide shade. The fallen leaves and decaying plant matter, along with animal manure, enrich the soil. The ripe and red coffee cherries are selectively picked by hand and processed in a clean environment to prevent contamination of the beans.Their quality was recognized with the third place award at the 2003 cupping trials of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). Varieties grown include Yirgacheffe, Limu, Sidamo and Harrar.
Oromia operates under an Auction Market Waiver which allows it to export directly to specialty markets in the US, Europe and Japan. This means it can bypass both middlemen and the Ethiopian coffee auction and therefore achieve a much higher price for its members’ coffee. Oromia provides credit facilities and technical assistance and has acquired funding from the Common Fund for Commodities to set up a cashew nut project to diversify incomes.
Education: OROMIA believes children have a right to education, and as such, requires completion of at least the primary level. Most of the $50,346 investment for the implementation of this project’s strategies includes the following: community-based planning (target setting and monitoring decided on by members); focus on enrollment and completion for school children aged 5-7; and partnership building among government departments, organizations, and cooperatives.
Infrastructure: In addition to the installation of electricity, improving wet mills, and other investments, OROMIA used $736,568 of the premium to improve and develop one of the least developed sectors in Ethiopia – roads. The road development program includes universal rural road access, and the construction of all-weather roads in member communities. These roads are used not only by members but additional beneficiaries in the surrounding areas.
Access to Potable Water: OROMIA invested $47,330 of the premium to provide potable water for members, which helped to promote the skill of the community in the management and operation of the project, as well as ensure the project’s longterm sustainability, during the implementation process. Ultimately the project helped to improve sanitation and hygiene of the environment, promoting a healthy, productive community.
Health: The comprehensive community health clinic for mothers and children provides primary health care services to Oromia members. The traditional Birth Attendant (Dai) and Community Organizer are responsible at the village level. One of the goals is to save the cost and time of transport of patients by bringing health services to remote rural communities, reducing maternal mortality during childbirth, and the number of sick people in the rural community. Another goal is to support rural families with family planning, mother and child health, immunizations, and affordable, nutritious food preparation.