Registered in 2005, the Debello farmers cultivate high quality coffee in the deep shade of family owned plots. These farmers also cultivate food crops and vegetables for their own consumption, and often times keep family cows and chickens to supplement their cash crop income. Most Debello farmers reside in circular thatch homes with clean water and electricity. The cooperative has 2 offices and 2 warehouses, and has grown to include over 500 members. Debello cooperative is in southwest Ethiopia’s Oromia regional state, Jimma Zone, Limu Kosa Woreda. Located 75 km from Jimma and 6 km from district capital Limu Genet, the site can be accessed year round by a main road 3 km away. The surrounding area is rural and mostly mountainous highlands. The coffee catchment area resides between 1,600 and 1,900 m and the wet mill is located at 1,610m. The 7,200 surrounding hectare is split between cultivation and grazing land, along with grass and wetlands. TechnoServe Ethiopia’s Coffee Initiative supports the Debello Gemechu cooperative by providing business and technical advice to improve quality and increase production of their coffee. With this enhanced production, smallholder Debello farmers are able to raise their standard of living and further enrich their livelihoods. TechnoServe directly collaborates with farmers to enhance the market chain through their service provider, the Limu Union, and connect them to international specialty coffee buyers. Debello farmers fulfilled TechnoServe selection criteria and were able to construct and begin operation of a wet coffee mill in 2010. Prior to the introduction of a wet mill, Debello farmers produced less coffee at a lower quality. Debello coffee was sold as a dry cherry at local markets with prices determined by the will local traders. In 2009, the average price was 8 birr/kg for dry cherry. Due to the low prices, farmers were thus unable to improve their livelihoods through coffee production. Wet mill operation began in 2010 at an altitude of 1,740m and is expected to produce a 50% overall boost in farmer income. With increasingly strong leadership and membership commitment, the cooperative was able to produce a specialty coffee that received a cupping test result of 87.5 points, a CPQI of 14, and a 21% cherry to parchment ratio. The mill’s operating cost remains below 12% and Debello farmers estimate a profit of over 40,000 birr. In 2010, Debello farmers were able to produce 96,589 kg of coffee from 1,850 hectare of coffee plantation, remaining focused on efficient high quality processing and cherry selection. Grown in small farming plots under natural forest shade, the farmers take much care of their crops and frequently slash weed, prune, and mulch. The farmers do not use any agrochemicals, making the coffee completely natural and organic. A nearby perennial river serves as the main water source for Debello farmers. The mill does not produce any contamination as the pulp byproduct is reused in compost for natural fertilizer. The wastewater is directed into a lagoon and is filtered by planed vetivar grass. Wet mill operators, an industry manager, an accountant, a storekeeper, guards, and daily laborers staff the Debello cooperative. All employees have open access to meet and discuss with the management. There is also access to a clean water supply and pit latrines on site. The cooperative has a total of 509 members and 3 nearby Peasant Associations, Debello, Chakewo, and Mendera.
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.