At once remarkably complex and subtle, our current Agaro lot is soft and nuanced with stone fruit and bergamot aromatics. In the cup one finds citrus, tea rose, cocoa, and caramel underpinned by a raw honey-like sweetness.
Our current Agaro offering was produced by the Nano Challa farmer’s cooperative, one of the older, and most famous, member cooperatives of the Kata Muduga Union. Previously producing only low quality dry processed coffees, Nano Challa now boasts 400+ small farmer members and produces some of the most coveted washed coffees in all of Ethiopia.
Some of our favorite coffees come from Western Ethiopia, a region that until relatively recently was known to produce only low quality dry processed coffees for which farmers got paid abysmally low prices.
In 2004 an initial group of 25 farmers from Agaro, a small town located in Jimma Zone in the regional state of Oromia, established the Nano Challa cooperative. The original members founded the cooperative with the goal of fostering unity, and pooling resources to more effectively attract buyers and improve production standards. A few years later, Nano Challa was one of the first Agaro coops, along with other now-famous names including Duromina and Yukro, to benefit from technical support, business advice, and access to finance through TechnoServe (a nonprofit organization focused on harnessing the power of the private sector to help poor farmers improve production and increase their income). With the support of the TechnoServe project, Agaro coops acquired and installed wet mills and began processing fully washed coffees for the first time. Some of these coffees, including the coffees produced by Nano Challa, caught the attention of Stumptown’s then coffee buyer Aleco Chigounis, who purchased them and catapulted these cooperatives into the specialty coffee limelight.
Today, Nano Challa has grown to over 400 members and is a member of Kata Muduga Cooperative Union, which provides administrative leadership for its member coops, serves as a liaison between the coops and specialty coffee buyers, and facilitates financing, logistics, and export. Not only is there a huge emphasis on quality coffee at the Kata Muduga cooperatives, but there is also a very large emphasis placed on the health of their communities.
Kata Muduga, the Cooperative Union that the Agaro Cooperatives was founded to pursue the following goals:
- To improve the life standard of member farmers by enhancing household income levels. This is accomplished by providing a direct marketing channel to coffee buyers, which can better provide a good price for members’ products, and
- Return earnings, paid as dividend, to producers from their primary cooperatives.
It also operates on a clear financial model:
- 5% of the total price goes towards export related expenses,
- 5% of the total price is the Union’s commission and goes towards staff salaries, and investments intended to help the union grow, •
- The remaining 90% of the total price goes directly to the coops and is distributed by the coops as follows:
- Outstanding bank loans are paid down,
- 70% of the remaining money after paying down bank loans is divided up amongst the members based on how much coffee was delivered to the cooperative (i.e. second payments),
- 30% of the money that remains after paying down bank loans is put towards social projects: building schools, constructing roads, clean water, etc.