Origin Stories: Fairtrade Cooperatives in Ethiopia

12 August, 2021 3 min read

Ethiopia’sYirgacheffe is a textbook example of how coffee has transformed and uplifted communities from poverty. We spoke with cofounder Wells Trenfield about how Fairtrade partnerships have benefited Ethiopian producers, attracted global recognition, and even changed attitudes towards women within the community. 

A seven-year success story

Jasper Coffee was one of the first roasters to buy the single-origin coffee, initially purchasing all of it from the HAMA Coop at Kochore in Yirgacheffe. From 2007-2012, Jasper Coffee worked with World Vision to support a tiny coffee cooperative in Ethiopia in hopes that it would pull the community out of poverty, and establish financial security within the region. Jasper Coffee supported the Coop to become organic and Fairtrade certified within a year of operation, and bought all seven tonnes of coffee produced in the first year.

To help further their growing capabilities, Jasper Coffee funded an unprecedented research trip where an agronomist was sent to Ethiopia to report on how communities were growing coffee abroad. The report was compiled and translated from the local language and remains a reputable agronomic resource today.


Putting Yirgacheffe on the coffee map

The HAMA Coop had demonstrated such progress and ambition on their journey to becoming Fairtrade and organic certified, that it was only natural for Jasper Coffee to maintain a strong business relationship within the region. The coffee produced in Yirgacheffe was so memorable, it was sure to grow in popularity on the world stage.

“Today, it’s one of the most highly-priced coffees on the market, not just in Fairtrade but across conventional coffees too. We absorb a lot of those costs so that our customers can still enjoy exquisite coffee without being deterred by the cost.” Wells Trenfield, Cofounder of Jasper Coffee

In 2010, the HAMA Coop won an award for a naturally processed coffee, they’d previously downplayed due to it being too expensive and too hard to produce. When Jasper Coffee sampled the first lot and fell in love with the flavour, higher volumes were purchased immediately, providing farmers with an even higher (than market) price for such an exceptional single-origin. 


A flavour that scales

Since becoming organic and Fairtrade certified in 2007, the cooperative has improved the yield and quality of their already exceptional coffee, purchasing a processing facility and mill to centralise production. 

“They now own the best processing mill in all of Ethiopia and are in total control of the process...They’ve used premiums to purchase warehouses to help store their coffee , and separate their naturally processed coffee from conventionally processed coffee - all with fairtrade money.” Wells Trenfield, Cofounder of Jasper Coffee

Additionally, birthing centres, access to birth control and education have all been funded by Fairtrade premiums and women have been appointed to the co-op board; demonstrating changing attitudes within the community. 

“Women play a vital role within the coffee farming cooperative in Yirgacheffe... But it was difficult for women to have their needs heard and addressed by the community. So the cooperative established a core group of women to inform the Fairtrade Coop board, that would meet separately to discuss issues women experienced within the community. This group was so integral to the growth of the Coop, that a woman was appointed to the board – something totally unheard of years ago.” Wells Trenfield, Cofounder of Jasper Coffee

To date, Jasper Coffee has contributed more than $92,000 to the project through a levy applied to each kilo of coffee sold. A percentage of our profits from all sales ofEthiopia Yirgacheffe is returned directly into the area development project with HAMA Coop, at Kochore – improving living standards and providing a livelihood for generations to come. 

Explore our blog for moreOrigin Stories about our Fairtrade Certified coffee fromPapua New Guinea,Colombia andEast Timor. ShopEthiopia Yirgacheffe and support farmers within the HAMA Coop today.