Farm: Guji Buku
Altitude: 2,000 to 2,350 meters above sea level
Owner: Esayas Beriso
Town / City: Buku
Guji Buku G2 - Ethiopia
Located within the well-known Guji producing region in the Buku District of Hambela Wamena, this farm is owned and run by Esayas Beriso.
With some of the highest elevations in Ethiopia, Buku provides the ideal climate for slow-ripening coffee of utmost quality. Reaching staggering elevations of 2,350 masl, this farm has dispersed coffee throughout the mountainous region. Horses are utilized to pick and move the coffee to navigate the hilly topography of the area.
Esayas has been working with SNAP Specialty Coffee exporters in the region since 2019 and is utilized as a model farmer for other coffee producers.
Producers in Buku will grow cabbages and lettuce in addition to teff with their coffee to diversify income, whilst also providing nutrients to the soil and growing food for the household.
In this region, the landscape can prove to create difficulties for producers due to the steep slopes and rough terrain. With a lack of infrastructure and roads – it can be difficult for workers to walk and ride horses through the crops. However, roads are currently being constructed to connect the coffee farms to nearby villages.
Producers in Ethiopia are considered ‘passive organic,’ due to their naturally organic practices and inability to afford the certification fees. This is because producers rely on natural methods such as humus fertilizer, or decomposed organic material fed into the soil, rather than expensive inputs. As the humus becomes incorporated into the soil, it provides more support for retaining water and other nutrients; thus, acting as a natural fertilizer.
During the harvest, coffee is carefully picked on the steep slopes and hand-sorted upon arrival at the drying site. The cherries are spread evenly with a 2cm thickness and dried for 18 days on raised beds with frequent turning and covered during the central hours of the day and at night to prevent further fermentation. Another sorting occurs once drying is complete to ensure quality is maintained. Trucks collect the coffee and deliver it to the dry mill, located 2.5km away in Dimtu Town. A final sorting will occur in Addis Ababa prior to export.
Esayas has initiated various environmental programs on his farm. This includes diversifying his shade trees to promote biodiversity and to improve climatic conditions for the coffee. By 2022, he hopes to plant large swathes of new shade trees to reforest the area. In addition, his existing nurseries used for growing future trees will be expanded to support a government-run agricultural research center in Yirgalem town, improving the efficiency of the coffee farming space.
Social programs are also in place to educate neighboring producers about growing coffee and providing producers with a pre-financing facility for financial support. Infrastructure, roads, and community buildings are also in the works for development in the coming year thanks to the success of coffee production in the area.
About the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange and Traceability:
For many years, Ethiopian coffee, some of the best in the world, was for the most part untraceable.
Starting in 2008, Ethiopia began the centralization of all coffee exports through the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX), where the coffees were ‘anonymised’, stripped of any information other than region, in the interest of the farmers, who were meant to receive top dollar for quality regardless of the ‘name’ of the washing station or farm. Coffees moving through the ECX were (still are) delivered to certified coffee labs, where they were cupped according to profile then graded and marked generically for export. This ‘equalising’ measure certainly benefitted some producers, but it had the negative impact of eliminating most roasters’ and importers’ ability to provide accurate information of the precise traceability of coffees. Even after the opening of the ‘second window’ (devised for direct sales of cooperative and certified coffee), as of the end of 2017 some 90 percent of coffees still moved through the ECX.
The end of March 2017 saw a huge overturning of this mandatory system. In a bill raised by the Ethiopian Coffee & Tea Development and Marketing Authority, Ethiopian coffee (even that sold through the ECX) can be marketed and sold with full traceability intact. The aim is to limit black market dealings, to demand higher prices and to enable Ethiopian producers to share in a greater piece of the pie.
In a bit more detail, the new system allows any exporter with a valid license to sell directly to buyers without placing the coffee on the ECX first. There is a slight caveat – the parchment coffee will have to be sold within three days of arriving at the processing plant in Addis. If it is still unsold after three days (which is quite likely), it must be sold through the ECX: BUT with its traceability info intact rather than being deleted. Additionally, it is proposed that overseas companies will be able to plant and sell coffee, though this is still undetermined as of 2018/19’s harvest.
As of September 2019, The Ethiopian government and the European Union have officially announced the beginning of a €15 million five-year program, designed to boost the Ethiopian coffee sector. The program, named EU-Coffee Action for the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (EUCAFE), focuses on Ethiopia’s primary growing regions, namely, Oromia, Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples (SSNPR) and Amhara. The project aims to tackle a number of objectives, including food security and health for vulnerable populations, improving farmer access to credit, technical assistance and inputs, marketing and strengthening premium market channels, climate change mitigation and involving more women and youth.