There are few entrances to Guji--a distant and heavily forested swath of land stretching southeast through the lower corner of the massive Oromia region--and none of these routes are short, or for the queasy, in any way. Guji is heavy with primary forest thanks to the Guji tribe, a part of Ethiopia’s vast and diverse Oromo nation, who have for generations organized and legislated to reduce mining and logging outfits in their area, in a struggle to conserve the land’s sacred canopy.
Compared to other coffee-heavy regions, large parts of Guji feel like prehistoric backwoods. Coffee farms in many parts of Guji begin at 2000 meters in elevation and tend to climb from there. The highland farming communities in this part of the country can be at turns Edenic in their natural purity, and startlingly remote.
In Guji’s central Odo Shakiso district is the Allona Farm, owned and operated by Guji Highland Coffee Plantation (GHCP), one of the region’s newer and more ambitious coffee producing businesses. GHCP was founded in 2012 by Ato Wodessa Yachisi, and then re-organized into a larger corporate entity in 2015 so as to include the processing of regional smallholder coffee and exportation. The farm itself is 200 hectares and produces exclusively coffee, employing more than 2000 workers during harvest months of October – December.
Allona has its own washing station as well as 4 wet and natural processing units throughout its property, all of which are used for estate-grown coffee and the coffee produced by regional smallholders, or “outgrowers”, whose combined farm land equals more than 1100 hectares of additional production coming to GHCP and whose techniques are carefully guided by GCHP’s extensive knowledge.
GHCP is directly involved in community support, using their large footprint in central Guji to impact local infrastructure. At their processing stations in Dukem and Gelan they have installed water filtration systems to provide drinking water to 100 local families, as well as processing employees and their families; in Shakiso where Allona Farm is located GHCP has designed and built over 15km of roads connecting marketplaces to residential communities to schools, another area of investment in which they are regularly financing the re-building or expansion of local Shakiso schools.