Fairtrade Stories – Ethiopia Fairtrade Coffee

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Coffee has been grown in Ethopia forover 3,000 years – in fact it is oftendescribed as the birthplace of coffee.It has become one of Ethopia’s mainexports, but despite producing someof the world’s best coffee, Ethopia’s coffee farmers are still struggling.They have been driven deeper intopoverty as a result of the world’s coffee crises. With a significantdrop in the world’s coffee prices,the Ethopian Government estimatesthat they have lost nearly US$830million in the last five years whichhad a dramatic effect on the farmersand the economy. Prices for coffeedropped so low that farmers could nolonger afford to feed themselves andtheir families.

In 1999, Oxfam suppor ted theestablishment of the Oromia CoffeeFarmers Cooperative Union (OCFCU)which helped coffee farmers establishlinks with the Fair Trade market.This resulted in higher prices forthei r cof fee and consequent l yincreased investments in communityprojects. The OCFCU is made upof 34 cooperatives and has a totalof 23,000 members; in 2003, theOCFCU posted its first profits ofUS$1.3million.

These profits have translated intodividends of US$25.00 for each coopmember which has meant thatfamilies have been able to buyfood – enough for 6 months – orare able to send three childrento school for a year.OCFCU has also investedsome of its profits backinto the community. Theyhave bought equipmentto wash beans and hopeto buy more vehicles totransport their coffeeto Addis Ababa, thecapi tal of Ethiopia.A l l c o m m u n i t yimprovements allowco-ops to sell a betterqual i t y product athigher prices – whichis only fair.

Education in the area has also beenimproved by the OCFCU, as many ofthe communities have used the extramoney from the sale of their FairTrade coffee to build schools withintheir communities and to providethe schools with more classroomsupplies.