The climb from the southern end of the Great Rift Valley, through Shashamene and past Awasa is gradual, and coffee trees slowly increase in frequency, large, lanky, and dusty by the roadside, many so tall they lean on the roofs of houses for support. Coffees in Sidama are earlier than in the far south, delicate, and citric. Sidama has its own robust cooperative union, as well as a thriving industry of independent processors. It also has thousands of coffee farmers contributing to the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (OCFCU), a large umbrella organization representing cooperatives throughout Ethiopia’s southern coffee producing regions.
OCFCU was established in 1999 to support a sustainable coffee supply from cooperatives in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, the country’s largest by land size and population, and which contains Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city, as well as the eastern coffee zones of Jimma, Limu and Nekemte, and Guji, Gelena and Abaya in the south. OCFCU supports 407 cooperatives with more than 550,000 coffee farmer members, accounting for 65% of Ethiopia’s total coffee production. Premiums from coffee exports are returned directly to farmers, and also fund organic farming programs, mill equipment purchases, and food security programs. OCFCU has established a central cupping lab to support quality control and a members’ bank that provides pre-harvest financing.