Coffee production in the Bench Maji region is a time-honored practice and tradition that is as much part of its economy as of its culture. But Bench Maji is one of Ethiopia’s lesser-known coffee producing regions. Why? Because for years private coffee traders have been buying this natural, uniquely distinctive coffee at extremely low prices and selling it under the umbrella origin of “Ethiopian heirloom” with no Bench Maji trademark or traceability back to region of origin.
With little to no business or negotiation skills, farmers from the region have had no platform to change this dynamic and have remained underpaid and undervalued, with the Bench Maji name remaining largely in the shadows.
Bench Maji Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union was formed to change this power structure and give the Bench Maji farmers skills and knowledge for improved livelihoods, leadership and representation for better negotiation of prices and market linkages, and to rightfully put the Bench Maji name on the global coffee market map. Ensuring the sustainability of Bench Maji’s coffee production and the engagement of its future generations of farmers.
Currently it has a member of 65 primary cooperatives. This primary cooperatives collectively have a total of 130,000 member farmers.