Sota cooperative was established in 2000 and renewed in 2002 with 143 farmers. These farmers first joined together with the purpose of distributing farm inputs and to provide economic and social services for members. Coffee serves as the major crop of the area and generates the majority of farmer’s income. Farmers also crow cereals such as teff and maize along with raising animals such as sheep, goat, and cows. Many farmers also utilize the indigenous honeybees to produce organic honey. Farmers use their income for schooling, clothing, ceremonies, and farming supplies. There are now over 350 members of the Sota cooperative. The Sota kebele is 500 km from Addis Ababa and 20 km from the nearest woreda of Beddele. The site can be accessed all year round during all weathers. The area is characterized by hills and farming plains. It is surrounded by jangles forest, and the coffee catchment area is found between 1,800 and 1,920 m altitude. Sota farmers dedicate 420 ha to plantation and natural forest, 10,675 ha to cultivated land, and 205 ha for grazing land. Popular crops include teff, maize, barley, pea, coffee, and sorghum. The Sota cooperative receives support from TechnoServe’s Coffee Initiave. Sota farmers obtain technical support and business advice so they can enhance their production and improve their coffee quality. These advancements help Sota farmers earn larger incomes and fight off poverty. TechnoServe directly works with farmers to better their market chain through their service provider, the Oromia Union, and connect them with international buyers. In 2010, Sota farmers fulfilled TechnoServe selection criteria and were able to construct and operate a wet mill. Prior to the introduction of a wet mill, Sota farmers would sell their coffee to private traders at low prices. The average price was 3 birr/kg for red cherry coffee. Because of the depressed earnings, farmers were not benefiting from coffee farming. Wet mill operation began in 2010 and is expected to produce a 75% overall boost in farmer income. The cooperative built the mill with local resources and have already generated a profit of 400,000 birr. The coffee produced received a consistent cupping score of 90 and is of specialty quality. The coffee now sells at a minimum of 8 birr/kg in the markets. Over 1,500 ha are dedicated to coffee plantation. In 2010, the mill processed nearly 79,000 kg of red cherry coffee and has been producing more with every year. Their coffee is grown in the forest and plantation. Sota farmers plant seedlings resistant to disease, prepare land, control erosion, use tree shade, mulch, and practice agroforestry. There is also no use of agrochemicals such as insecticides or pesticides. The wet mill receives water primarily from a perennial river by water pump. The pulp released as a byproduct from the mill is used to prepare composts or covered by soil above ground. The waste water is filtered by vetiver grass and evaporated in a lagoon area. The wet mill has hired an administrative staff of a manager, accountant, storekeeper, and guards, along with hired daily laborers. The site also has a clean water supply and pit latrines available for workers. The cooperative was registered with an initial 143 members and has since grown to include over 350 farmers of the area.
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.