Formed by farmers growing coffee on their family land, the Wolenso cooperative is located near the birthplace of the renowned Coffee Arabica. Wolenso farmers also cultivate vegetables, maize, teff, and fruit for domestic subsistence. Many farmers also raise family sheep, cows, and chicken to supplement their food crops. Most of the farmers live in circular thatch houses with running water and electricity, and rely on their coffee business for their family income. The cooperative has grown to include nearly 500 farmers from the surrounding areas, and has enhanced their coffee practices and quality. Wolenso can be accessed year round in southwestern Ethiopia’s Oromia regional state, Jimma Zone and Limu Kossa woreda. It is located 78 km from the TechnoServe office in Jimma, and 9 km from woreda capital Limu Genet. The main road is located 6km away from the site. The surrounding area is generally mountainous and slightly sloppy. The coffee catchment areas can be found between 1,700 and 2,050 meters. There are over 2,610 ha around the cooperative. 833 ha are forest, 844 ha are various crops, 15 ha are for grazing land, 40 ha are for homes, 829 ha are dedicated to coffee, and the remaining is used for various purposes. TechnoServe Ethiopia’s Coffee Initiative supports Wolenso by providing business advice and technical support in order to improve quality and increase production of the coffee. With this enhanced production and efficient organization, Wolenso farmers are able to raise their standard of living and further enrich their livelihoods. The program expects to create an overall boost of 50% in farmers’ income. TechnoServe directly collaborates with farmers to enhance the market chain and connect them to international specialty coffee buyers. Wolenso farmers fulfilled TechnoServe selection criteria and were able to construct and begin operation of a wet coffee mill in 2009. Prior to the wet mill, farmers sold their coffee in nearby markets for low prices determined by local traders. In 2008-2009, average prices were 3 birr/kg for red cherry and 6 birr/kg for dry cherry. Due to the low prices, farmers couldn’t benefit from coffee. With TechnoServe support and increasingly effective leadership, wet mill operation began in 2009. Construction costs reached roughly 750,000 birr but over 100,000 birr has been generated as profit. With a mill located at 1,700m, Wolenso farmers give special attention to cherry selection and high quality processing. With this high quality processing, Wolenso coffee received a cupping score of 87.5%. Over 1,100 hectares are dedicated to coffee cultivation, and with wet mill processing Wolenso farmers generated 215 tons of cherry in 2009 and 163 tons in 2010 with a cherry to parchment ratio of 21%. Wolenso farmers use a variety of unique coffee seedlings that they specially prepare. Their farms are well managed as they consistently slash weed and frequently prune and mulch the coffee trees. Wolenso coffee is produced using no agrochemicals such as pesticide and insecticides, making the coffee completely natural and organic. A permanent river serves as the main water source for Wolseno farmers. The pulp byproduct generated during processing is reused in composting for fertilizer. The wastewater is treated in a constructed lagoon with hedge grow to filter the water and prevent pollution of the area. Wet mill operators, an industry manager, an accountant, a storekeeper, guards, and daily laborers staff the Wolenso cooperative. All employees have open access to meet and discuss their work with the management. There is also access to a clean water supply and pit latrines on site. The Wolenso farmers are not organized in any nearby Peasant Associations. There are nearly 500 members of the cooperative.
Transparency is an important driver of efficiency and good governance at cooperatively-owned coffee wet mills and can lead to higher farm-gate prices. Coffeetransparency.com collates the most important production and financial information from participating wet mill businesses - from export revenues to incomes -and organizes this information into a two-page transparency sheet. The left-hand numbers are key indicators of production efficiency and farmer income for the most recently completed coffee season.
Adopting business practices that treat workers and suppliers ethically and fairly, protect the environment, and promote economic transparency will build the foundation for a sustainable business. Participating wet mills and supplying farmers are trained and audited on a set of sustainability standards that focus on 5 categories – social responsibility & ethics, occupational health & safety, environmental responsibility, economic transparency and production & farm management. The numbers on the left track compliance against best practices in each category from the most recently completed sustainability audit.