When Ato Kumulachew’s father first came to the Hafursa Waro Kebele from the northern part of the country many years ago, much of this land was an untouched forest. Growing up, Ato Kumulachew and his siblings would tease their father about this, often asking, “Did you get on a bus that didn’t know where to stop?”
Just a few kilometers to the west of Yirgacheffe town, Hafursa Waro is no longer an unknown point on the Ethiopian map. In fact, coffee farmers from this area garnered the attention of the world in 2006 when Ethiopia fought for the rights to license and distribute its fine coffees.
When Ato Kumulachew decided to set up a coffee washing station, he intentionally chose the Kebele of Hafursa Waro for three reasons. Firstly, the area has some of Ethiopia’s finest indigenous coffee. Secondly, the farmers of Hafursa Waro are quite good at growing coffee and have been doing it for many decades. Lastly, as he had grown up in the area, Ato Kumulachew knew the community and got along well with them.
Ato Kumulachew’s wet mill is set on a 4.4-hectare field and receives coffee from around 500 farmers in the surrounding Kebeles of Hafursa Waro, Haro, and Hafursa Worabi. While these Kebeles are in the Abaya Woreda, the coffee that grows here is of the Yirgacheffe variety.
Although the farmers in and around Hafursa Waro washing station are already well-versed in how to get the best quality coffee from their trees, Ato Kumulachew takes several measures to ensure they have a reason to do even better. He trains them to bring their best coffee to this washing station.
“Based on fair trade standards, we pay a premium for high-quality coffee cherries. After sales, we make a second payment to the farmers based on the weight of the coffee we initially bought from them. As a result, farmers are happy to bring us their best red cherries.”
Moreover, the Hafursa Waro washing station also provides farmers with organic compost and participates in community projects, such as the local school. Because of these initiatives, the mill enjoys a close and friendly relationship with many smallholders of the area.
Farmers are also asked to bring their coffee to the mill as soon as they can on the same day the cherries are harvested. Once the ripe cherries are at the mill, they are washed and then dried on African drying beds.
When the mill first started operations in 2013, it received enough coffee to require 150 beds. Now, there are over 400 beds. In addition, the mill employs sufficient help during harvest season – sometimes over 400 people – to ensure there are no delays in the washing and drying process, as this is something that could negatively affect the coffee’s quality.
The combination of Hafursa Waro’s experienced farmers and Ato Kumulachew’s knowledge and care means that the Hafursa washing station produces grade-1 Yirgacheffe coffee. Ato Kumulachew’s mill works with Tracon Trading, a large coffee exporter in Ethiopia, and a source of some of Trabocca’s finest finds.
Once washed and dried, Hafursa Waro coffee makes its way to Tracon’s processing plant and warehouse in Addis Ababa where it is further sorted and graded for final export. Lastly, at the end of every harvest season, Ato Kumulachew and the Hafursa Waro farmers discuss what can be done to make improvements in both coffee quality and processes in the coming year.
One challenge that Ato Kumulachew finds frustrating is that there is no guarantee of finding buyers for all of Hafursa Waro’s coffee. However, he believes that with the combination of the region’s delicious coffee and its experienced farmers, there is plenty of room to expand the washing station and improve quality even further. He is looking for ways to finance this so both the station and its farmers benefit.