The present-day Guji people are believed to be descendants of a man called Gujo who had three sons. As Gujo’s descendants spread across what is now Guji zone, they raised cattle and lived off the land for many generations.
Like his ancestors, young Waddessa Yachis was an expert at cattle herding. However, fate had other plans for him. After a series of different business ventures, he eventually settled on coffee. His first coffee farm was a joint venture with other friends. Guji Highland is his second coffee farm.
Located about an hour’s drive from Shakiso town and its rich, gold-filled land, the Guji Highland farm is set on 150 hectares of fertile land that sits under the dense canopy of the ancient forest that covers this area. “Guji has had forest coffee for as long as we can remember”, says Ato Waddessa, adding, “It has a special taste, and we made it a point to grow our coffee from these unique mother trees.”
Work on the farm began in 2012, and for the first few harvests, Guji Highland focused on natural sundried coffee. In recent years the farm established a washing station with a modern Penagos machine and warehouse and began processing washed coffee as well.
Ato Waddessa’s goal is to prepare high-quality organic coffee for export and there are several factors that ensure the Guji Highland farm produces some of the finest coffee in the region. The natural factors include the type of coffee, the altitude, and the thick forest. All coffee trees on the farm are descendants of the area’s indigenous mother trees. This ensures the coffee’s natural unique flavor is not lost.
Furthermore, the soil on the farm is rich as it has benefited from years of natural decomposition of plant matter in the forest. In addition to this, the farm takes further steps to ensure quality. These take the form of extra care and maintenance of seedlings and trees; regular training of farm staff and outgrowers; as well as attention to detail during the harvest season.
Lastly, after harvest, cherries are either dried or washed. Whichever route the coffee takes, the staff at Guji Highland’s mills are trained to take each painstaking step with care and attention.
On average, the Guji Highland farm produces 800 kilograms of processed coffee per hectare of the coffee farm. Now that systems are in place to ensure the quality of coffee, the farm’s focus is moving toward increasing yield per hectare. Ato Waddessa believes that with the proper care, the farm can double its coffee production.
In the past, the farm would harvest and dry or wash its coffee in a timely manner, but because it had to rely on other companies for final sorting and processing before export, its shipments would often get delayed. Now, with the establishment of a new coffee warehouse and processing plant in Addis Ababa, Guji Highland is in full control of its entire coffee production process: from growing the delicate seedling to final export.