The Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (OCFCU) aims to: improve income of farmers; improve and maintain the quality, productivity and sustainability of coffee production in Ethiopia; regulate and stabilize the local market; and assist the coffee communities in providing social services, such as providing clean water and school health centers.
The world’s dependence on the export of Ethiopian coffee has made small-scale farmers vulnerable to drops in the global market price, creating severe hardships for the over one million coffee farmers in the country. To help save their farms and livelihood, the OCFCU was established in 1999 by 35 farmer cooperatives, with a total of 22,691 starting members, in southern and western Ethiopia. Today, membership has grown to 200,000 and includes 217 cooperatives.
The cooperative members sort the beans for quality before exporting them, unlike most other Ethiopian coffee farmers who simply grow and pick their beans before sending them to intermediaries. Equal Exchange’s Organic Ethiopian coffee comes from the OCFCU and is grown in the Sidama region. The coffee is exotic and complex, with a heavy body, gentle acidity and hints of vanilla, black pepper and raspberry.
Since the OCFCU avoids working with middlemen, it is able to return 70% of the net profit back to the farmers themselves, rather than the 30% they would receive going through the traditional market. Fair Trade premiums from Equal Exchange benefit the entire community by helping farmers better support their families. Several communities in Ethiopia can now ensure that their children have an education in the new Fair Trade Primary School, which was built with money from Fair Trade premiums.