This year we had the opportunity to visit producers from the Tokuma group in Limu. Mensur Abahikam Jemal and his relative Mr Amar picked us up. Amar operates a small coffee warehouse in Agaro which we visited first. During our visit, we met several Tokuma group farmers and discussed the topic of The Cup of Excellence coming to Ethiopia. Some of the producers had already sent in samples for the CoE, and were very excited to be part of this world class event in Ethiopia.
Personally, I think that in a society with social inequalities, like in Ethiopia, the CoE could function as great equalising factor between people in the coffee sector. Producers with virtually no connection to the outside world are performing on a world-class stage.
During the visit to the warehouse in Agaro, our group grew with two travel companions from the Kata Maduga Cooperative Union, a large player in that area. Cooperative Unions are basically umbrella organisations for primary Coops that function as organisers and exporters for the individual Coops. Kata Maduga also added a car to our little caravan and we were welcomed in the car of Mr Mustafa, one of the cooperative unions leader, local businessman, and farmer. You might know Kata Maduga by one of their more famous primary cooperatives, Nano Chala.
All farmers of the Tokuma Group, used to (or still) deliver cherry to primary cooperatives under Kata Maduga. The cooperative union helps the farmers develop and become morein dependent. There is not direct financial benefit to their members becoming more independent as producers, processors and exporters, Mr Mustafa explains that they still like to help their members or former members, because it is a good development for the coffee industry in Limu. We definitely share this thought.
Mensur is a very warm and welcoming person, with an eye for organizing business and producing quality specialty coffee. This is the one of the first single Ethiopian farmer lots we trade as The Coffee Quest, we aim to persist and grow! We love the opportunity as we believe that such direct connections can benefit farmers in more rural areas. The aim is to connect Ethiopian producers from the Tokuma group, directly to roasters!
Later during the trip, we passed by Mensur’s farm in the fields around Agaro and immediatly we realized the potential of single farmer lots in Ethiopia, both for producing quality coffee and for generating local economic impact. Mansur has a large farm of multiple hectares, 15 kilometres from Agaro, at around 2000 meters above sea level. A small warehouse for storing his tools and a large flat field which functions as his drying station during the season. His farm is planted with locally selected varieties 74210 and 74212, which are durable, resistant and have good cup characteristics.
The warehouse, run by Mr Amar, is what you call a primary Dry Mill. Washed coffee is processed to dry parchment and then shipped to Addis for dry milling. Natural coffee however, is kept in cherry in warehouses Amar’s, until the owner of the coffee decides he wants it milled and shipped to Addis. If there is a final buyer for the coffee, Mr Amar would hull the coffee into unsorted green and prepare it for transport to a dry mill in Addis. In our case this is our partner Addis Exporter. Mr Mensur’s coffee was also stored in Amar’s warehouse, and in the spirit of quality control, we drew several kg’s of samples from his various lots, to compare to samples we received of the same lot’s through Addis Exporter.
Mike Mamo the Ethiopian American chief of Addis Exporter is a dry miller, exporter and service provider. He took over the company from his father who founded Addis Exporter 65 years ago. I met Mike in the beginning of 2020, and visited him twice that year. Next to operating his own ‘Talisa’ Washing station in Agaro – Limu, Mike works with 50+ single farms from the Tokuma group in Agaro too. Since the liberalization of 2018, these 4 to 40Ha farms can export directly, with the help of Addis Exporter’s service.
10 to 15 kilometer, West of Agaro
Av. 2005 m.a.s.l.
Locally selected varieties 74210 and 74212
Lot 2: Peak harvest (usually cleaner)
Lot 4: Late harvest (usually more funky)
Between 18 and 21 days, on raised African beds
The amazing fact of working with single farmers like Mr. Mensur is that the coffee passed from his hands into ours and finally into yours. The added value lies exactly in the activities undertaken by Mansur and his staff. The only activity Mensur cannot do himself is the final milling and export processing. For that, he works with Service Provider Mike Mamo from Addis Exporter. Mike charges 12,5% of the export price as a fee for organising everything in between Farm-gate and FOB price. The rest of the value of the export price goes entirely to Mensur, which leads to generating a positive impact. This lot is the one with currently the highest percentage of the final coffee price going to a single farmer. Check it out!
Working as a coffee importer, I really believe in the Ethiopian Single Farmer lots. It’s much easier to develop personal relations between two people, a roaster and a grower, in comparison to a Washing Station. The emotional connection developped together is less clouded and less impacted by changing markets. The fact that Mansur is selling his cherries helps us to have a direct relationship. This helps us to really unserstand if we are doing socially right, instead of having to look at the micro-economic situation of smallholder farmers.
Now, Mensur isn’t your usual smallholder farmer. He has much more resources, a better network and much more land compared to the average farmer delivering cherries to a Washing Station. By allowing Mensur to move into the international market, the Ethiopian government has given him the opportunity to become more than an unknown actor in the coffee chain. Mansur and his peers will be able to build up an international reputation, learn how to interpret and work with international standards and build up a personal global network. This transformation was previously unthinkable in Ethiopia!