In Ethiopia, the home of Arabica coffee – the majority of coffee is grown by smallholder and subsistence farmers operating less than one hectare. To market their coffee, farmers take it coffee to co-operatives or privately-owned coffee processing facilities (washing stations).
Union has been purchasing from Fero primary co-operative since 2016, a member of Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (SCFCU) which was founded in 2001. Nearly all coffee produced by these cooperatives is shade-grown in low densities under canopies of indigenous trees. Members of SCFCU have been growing and processing Sidama type coffee for more than 35 years.
A well organised co-operative with over 4000 members who understand the importance of traceability, transparency and quality, Fero lives up to their name which translates to “Strong” from Amharic. Fero has four coffee washing stations, and each is controlled by its own Industrial Manager who is responsible for the post-harvest processing from cherry to parchment. The cherries are fermented for 36 hours, and then washed and soaked for another 12 hours, followed by drying this parchment coffee on raised African beds, for several days.
Located in the district of Wonsho, near Yirgalem, the co-operative is Fairtrade and Organic certified which means none of their members apply agrochemicals on the coffee they grow. Only organic compost is used which is produced from the pulp (or skin) of the coffee cherry and is collected by farmers, at no cost, from the coffee washing station. Price premiums from Fairtrade fund several initiatives including the construction of two schools in the town and also investments into quality improvements, including material to build raised coffee drying beds and warehouse improvement.
Alongside their environmental credentials, the co-operative has undertaken several initiatives to increase female participation within the organisation which has resulted in an increase in female membership.