Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union – Founded in 2001, SCFCU currently represents 46 cooperatives and more than 80,000 small- scale farmers throughout the Sidama Zone of southern Ethiopia. SCFCU is the second largest Coffee Farmer Cooperative in Union in Ethiopia. The Sidama region spans across the mountains of Bensa to the valleys of Dale and Aleta Wendo providing a wide range of quality coffee profiles. All coffee produced by SCFCU members is shade grown in low density canopies of indigenous trees and enset (false bananas).
Coop Coffees began directly sourcing SCFCU’s extraordinary high quality coffee in 2009. Over the years Coop Coffees has been able to develop direct relationship with the communities of Shilcho, Homacho Waeno, Talamo, Bona, Abela Galuko, and Fero Cooperatives. Coop Coffees has assisted with organizational development and technical advice aimed toward improved quality and consistency of their coffee. Their success has led to the construction of roads, bridges, electric supply stations, and has paid the educational expenses of children in this region.
Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmer Cooperative Union –YCFCU is a collective of small farmer cooperatives in the Gadeo region of southern Ethiopia. It is dedicated to promoting sustainable, environmentally friendly growing methods and maximizing financial return and social benefits for its cooperative members
Farmers sharing a centralized washing station in the village of Idido formed the Idido Cooperative in the late 1970’s. It became one of the 24 base cooperatives of the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmer Cooperative Union (YCFCU) in 2002. The Idido Cooperative has a little over 1000 active members cultivating small plots, generally 1.5 hectares located around their houses. The Idido Cooperative members follow ecologically sound and sustainable coffee growing practices by producing shade grown coffee while intercropping their fields.
Natural Process (or “unwashed”) Coffee from Ethiopia – Third Coast Coffee imports “Natural Process” coffees from both SCFCU and YCFCU, available seasonally. This water-conserving method allows the flavor-laden coffee cherry to remain on the seed for days, saturating the bean with an intense berry flavor.
THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO:
Muungano Cooperative – The Muungano Cooperative is nestled in the mountains of Eastern Congo, right against Lake Kivu. The 1994 Rwandan genocide and the Congo Civil War left the coffee production of this region in decay. Thousands of farmers drowned each year by attempting to cross Lake Kivu to sell their coffee in Rwanda, leaving many women and children behind with no means to support themselves. The founding of the Muungano Cooperative in 2009 gave small scale farmers a new hope. Muungano means “togetherness” in Swahili and members of the Muungano Cooperative live by the phrase “unity is strength, and coffee is life”. Initially comprising only 350 members, today it has grown to over 4000 members. Muungano began exporting their coffee in 2010, and since then the cooperative has invested in increasing their environmental and socioeconomic sustainability.
Living up to their name they are also working closely with GALS (Gender Action Learning Systems), a program which strives to work with men and women alike to promote gender equality in their communities. Through a series of workshops women can gain knowledge of how to earn income beyond coffee, while learning leadership, business, and basic accounting skills. Once the women have completed the workshop they participate in a micro-loan project, generating funds to lift their families out of poverty. The cooperative empowers women to take control of central roles within the cooperative, while male farmers come to understand the value of including women in essential decision-making processes.
SOPACDI – The SOPACDI Cooperative (Solidarite Paysanne la Promotion de Actions Café) lies in the Congolese mountains around the coast of Lake Kivu. It consists of over 5,000 members, of which 20% are female. In 2002 Joachim Munganga founded SOPACDI as a means of bridging ethnic strife. Joachim and his uncle Albert Ngaboyeka restored an old run down estate with a central washing station and began building the cooperative.
SOPACDI’s main goal was to improve the lives of members’ families through high quality coffee production. In 2008 SOPACDI partnered with its first international cooperative, funding programs to assist with their business skills, rehabilitate farming practices, and improve infrastructure. With their help, SOPACDIi was able to build the first new central washing station in 40 years in the Congo. They also began workshops with an agronomist to educate members about sustainable organic farming practices that prevent further environmental degradation.
In 2010, SOPACDI received its first Fair Trade premiums. They used those premiums to buy roofing sheets for all of their farmers. In following years their premiums started to go to “Women’s Coffee”. This is a program that helps support widows of coffee farmers, many of whom lost their husbands in the civil wars or in efforts to bring their coffees to market by risking the dangerous crossing of Lake Kivu.
Today their hard work and dedication is paying off. Theirs is the first coffee in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to achieve the top national grade, “Kivu 2”, since 1967.
KODUKAK – The KODUKAK Cooperative is located in the Kigeyo Sector in the Rutsiro District of Rwanda, in the highlands surrounding Lake Kivu. Originally, 257 coffee farmers joined together in 2006 to improve the quality of Kigeyo’s coffee. Now with 990 farmer members, one third of them women, KODUKAK became a registered cooperative in 2015. KODUKAK is a member of the larger COOPAC umbrella cooperative that provides agroforestry education to all its members and provides ongoing assistance to fair trade community-based initiatives that have enabled construction of schools, health care clinics, roads, bridges and youth development programs.