Farm Focus | Hama Cooperative, Ethiopia

Made up of approximately 1500 members, the Hama Cooperative has been slowly increasing its output of washed and natural coffee through the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union. The Union itself represents 23-member cooperatives and offers wet and sundried processing for members as well as exportation - in recognition of its commitment to quality and connections to a wider market, it enables the farmers to get a better price.

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Gedeo extends south from the Sidama zone surrounded by the Oromia region with Guji bordering to the East. Situated in the Ethiopian Highlands which has little altitude falling below 1500masl, and is home to Ras Dashen, the highest mountain in Ethiopia, 10th highest in Africa. In Ethiopia, Kebele’s are grouped to form Woredas, Woredas into Zones, and Zones in to regions. It is common to find variation amongst spellings of places due to the language not readily translating in to Western Languages, leading to different interpretations of spellings. 

The coffee from here is grown at high altitudes in Iron rich soils with a spread of genetic diversity provided by the heirloom varietals. Natural processed coffees are sun-dried with the cherries on mats placed in raised beds and monitored until the cherry reaches 11.5% moisture, before being taken to a hulling machine to remove the dried flesh and parchment. For washed processing, the moisture is 12%, the coffee first being floated to remove debris and the underripes before being fermented and pulped as usual. Further sorting and removal of the bean from parchment is carried out in the Union owned facilities in Addis Ababa. 

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The agricultural-based Ethiopian economy depends hugely on the export of Arabica coffee, contributing to more than 60% of the country’s foreign exchange earnings. The livelihood of more than 15 million people of the country is coffee dependant, meaning quite simply that their daily survival is reliant on the existence, farming, production and export of coffee.

The Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperatives Union (YCFCU) was established in 2002 and represents over 43,794 farmers belonging to more than 300,000 families. Currently it has 23 member cooperatives, all located in Gedeo, southern Ethiopia.

The 62,004 hectares gardens that are dedicated to coffee alone, on average produce 9,000 tons of Yirgacheffe and 3,000 tons of Sidamo washed coffee each year. The area also produces 24,000 tons of sun-dried coffee annually.

Their mandate is to promote and support the continuing development of sustainable coffee supply by members to the market - maximising financial returns to member coops and taking on the social/administrative responsibilities for the coffee growers. It’s all about ensuring the farmers/growers are protected, guaranteeing better prices and largely supporting organic production, which is incredible for this scale and reach.