Ethiopian Farmers Find Value in High-Quality Coffee

Duromina, which means “to improve their lives” in the Afan Oromo language, is a coffee cooperative in southwestern Ethiopia’s Jimma Zone. Coffee has grown here for generations but was traditionally processed using the dry, natural method. Farmers paid little attention to quality control. Despite an ideal climate and altitude for coffee growing, the area’s coffee was synonymous with poor quality. Year after year, farmers received low prices for their coffee, earning little income as a result.

In 2010, more than 100 local coffee farmers banded together to form Duromina. As the name suggests, their goal was simple: to improve their lives. With technical support, business advice and access to finance through TechnoServe’s Coffee Initiative, the members acquired and installed a wet mill and began processing fully washed coffee for the first time.

This improvement helped Duromina produce high-quality coffee and bring new prosperity to the community. Two years later, an international panel of professional judges would select Duromina’s coffee as the best in Africa, awarding the cooperative the top prize in the leading regional cupping competition. Buyers from Stumptown Coffee Roasters described Duromina’s coffee as an “extremely complex yet clean cup that flaunts notes of lemon, cinnamon, sweet hops, ginger and nectarine accented by jasmine.”

East Africa correspondent Gregory Warner traveled to Ethiopia to learn how the farmers of the Duromina cooperative have improved the quality of their beans and produced some of the best coffee in Africa.View Story

In 2012, four major international roasters purchased 71 metric tons of green coffee through direct trade relationships with Duromina, paying an average of $3.68 per pound, a 65 percent premium over the international commodity price. Duromina was able to repay its entire investment loan in just one year, instead of the planned four years.

With their new income, one of the first things Duromina’s members did was invest collectively in building a bridge for their remote community. Previously, the nearby river would swell during rainy season and cut off access to markets and the clinic in a neighboring village.

“So many people were injured falling into the river when attempting to cross during heavy rain,” said Nizamu Abamecha, Duromina’s chairman. “We could not benefit from many government services because of the river, and some pregnant women even died because they could not reach the clinic.”

The new bridge allows access to outside communities year round. Farmers have invested in their homes – tin roofs, new furniture, solar power – and expect to be able to connect the community to the electrical grid in the near future. They also have invested in their children’s future by expanding the primary school through grade eight. Families now can afford to send their children to secondary school in nearby Agaro, or even beyond to university.