The Biftu Gudina cooperative was created in 2011 as a result of the Technoserve Initiative in the remote Agaro district of Jimma. The Jimma region in southwestern Ethiopia is infamous for its low-quality production of the unwashed Djimma 5 grade. The grade is synonymous with poorly produced and processed natural coffee. A low quality that pairs with low selling prices for the coffee, both nationally and internationally. This all changed in 2011 when local producers formed a cooperative and purchased a wet mill with the support of Technoserve. This allowed them to produce washed coffees of high quality and receive much higher selling prices for the coffee.
The Biftu Gudina cooperative is part of the Kata Muduga Multipurpose Farmers’ Cooperative Union. Kata Muduga is the umbrella organization supporting some of the biggest and best coffee-producing cooperatives in Ethiopia today. It’s also one of the most farmer-focused Unions. It consistently generates some of the highest prices paid to farmers in the country! The Union’s General Manager, Asnake Nigat, has been part of the story of these coffees from the beginning. Asnake was a business advisor with the Technoserve Coffee Initiative, a development project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2010, Technoserve helped these cooperatives in remote parts of Jimma transition to washed coffee production.
Biftu Gudina washing station follows the traditional Ethiopian methods for washed coffee but does this at a high level. “Biftu Gudina” literally means “a ray of development”, which nicely reflects what a properly managed cooperative and washing station can mean to a community! Through hand-sorting and flotation, the unwanted cherries (green, damaged, foreign matter,…) are removed. The cherries are collected in the cherry hopper, which feeds the cherries into the depulper. This machine tears off the cherry skin and most of the mucilage with low water usage. Next, the coffee soaks in tanks overnight to break down any remaining mucilage. Finally, the parchment is washed and graded in the washing channel.
Finally, the wet parchment is carried out to the drying field. Initial drying (6 hours) and wet parchment defect sorting take place under shade. It definitely takes more time, but the extra effort pays off in the long run. Final drying (10 days) takes place on raised tables. Just like the other Technoserve cooperatives, Biftu Gudina built a huge quality reputation for itself through its meticulous processing. This returns in the form of high selling prices for their coffee with a prospering coffee community as a result.
The premiums were also partly reinvested in the washing station infrastructure. The cooperative has a reserve fund and also purchased a second depulping machine to service more producers in an efficient way.