Tesfaye Sorsa

“Can one say anything bad about one’s own child”, says Tesfaye Sorsa, laughing, when asked to describe his coffee. One of the few educated men from his generation in this area, 42-year-old Tesfaye is a farmer, a pastor, and a community leader.

Going against the grain

Tesfaye Sorsa grew up in Shakisso, the closest town in the area. “At a time when people chose to move from rural areas to urban areas, I chose to do the opposite,” he says. Tesfaye has farmed for close to two decades, initially growing teff and corn. “It was a lot of work for very low profit,” Tesfaye says.

When he first started farming, coffee was relatively unknown in the Guji zone and very few farmers grew it. Seeing the potential for coffee in the area, the government began providing free coffee seedlings, but few farmers accepted the seedlings. Tesfaye was one of the few that took 80 coffee seedlings and planted them.

Earning more from coffee

With the first harvest, Tesfaye realized that he was earning more from coffee than from teff and corn. He explains, “then we got into coffee wholeheartedly. We expanded our fields and grew more. We chose the coffee.” Tesfaye dedicated three of his four fields in Suke Quto to growing coffee. Over 60,000 coffee trees now grow on 25 hectares of his land, giving him a harvest last year of 40,000 kg in red cherries.

Tesfaye’s philosophy

All Tesfaye’s older children are in school, with his eldest sons attending high school in Shakisso. They don’t have time to help on the farm, but he doesn’t mind. A careful farmer, Tesfaye finds happiness amidst his coffee trees, saying he laughs out loud with joy when the rains come and the coffee flowers bloom. “I spend all my time with the coffee, come rain, sun, or frost. If you don’t tend to coffee like that, you won’t do well”, he says. Tesfaye plans to expand operations in the future and provide natural sundried coffee as well. He has enough land, but financial constraints are holding him back now.

Developments in Guji

In his 42 years, Tesfaye has seen a lot of change come to Guji. He believes most of the change is good. “There was no school. People couldn’t write. If anything needed to be written, people would search us out – those of us who were studying and could write. Now, everyone can write his own name and has studied, even if it is just a little”, he explains.

Tesfaye remembers a time when there was no road leading to Suke. People would travel by foot, using mules and donkeys to carry heavy items. Now, while there is a road, it is a rocky and difficult one. It is hard to get coffee out of the farms and to the washing stations.

In Tesfaye’s case, the washing station sends a vehicle to pick up his coffee. However, he still hopes the government will improve road conditions in the area, as he can see the potential benefits to other farmers and the community.

Tesfaye Sorsa’s relationship with Tesfaye (of Suke Quto coffee) goes back many years, and when Tesfaye’s washing station was established, Tesfaye Sorsa began bringing his coffee there.

Learn more about the living income project.