Trabocca’s Tesfaye: a decade in the coffee farming industry

This week marks the launch of Trace and the partnership between Trabocca and Fairfood. That means that you can now see for yourself who the farmers behind your Trabocca coffee are, and how they are doing. We share the story of Tesfaye Sorsa, one of the farmers behind Trabocca’s coffee farming industry.

Coffee farmers are the future of the coffee industry; they are the backbone of the supply chain as they delicately grow the coffee beans, which require their unrequited attention all-year round. Yet, coffee prices are low and fluctuating, and these farmers are the ones to pay the price. Since coffee farming is their livelihood, unfair pricing can severely interfere with the farmers’ way of living – fair pricing guarantees that coffee farmers can earn a living income to sustain their families and keep innovating in order to prevent losses caused by unforeseen external factors, like the COVID-19 pandemic. With all the technology that surrounds us, we can use ‘transparency’ as a shield to defend the interests of the people behind our coffee.

Trace, the new traceability platform developed by Fairfood, does just this. It offers both transparency and traceability; the platform gives consumers, food companies and farmers the ability to witness the journey of their product and reconnects our lost relationship with the people behind our food. Tesfaye Sorsa, a farmer from Shakisso, is one of these people behind our food – more specifically: behind our coffee.

The beginning
Tesfaye Sorsa, a 42-year-old farmer who grew up in Shakisso wears many hats: besides being a farmer, Sorsa is a pastor, a community leader and above all a family man. With two decades of experience in the farming industry, Sorsa earns his livelihood from his farming activities.

Starting off as a teff and corn farmer, Sorsa quickly saw the opportunity to earn more money by growing coffee beans. “Growing teff and corn was a lot of work for very low profit,” he says. It was then that the farmer decided to move from an urban area to a rural area – when other people were doing practically the opposite – to start farming coffee. When he first started farming, coffee was relatively unknown in the Guji region 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.

Soon, Sorsa realised that coffee was indeed more lucrative. So, he chose for coffee: “Then we got into coffee wholeheartedly. We expanded our fields and grew more.” Since then, Sorsa has been in the coffee farming industry for ten years – a decade. Currently, the farmer has 25 hectares of land, growing 60 thousand coffee trees. Last year his harvest gave him 40 thousand kilograms in red cherries.

When asked to describe his coffee, Sorsa laughs and says: “Can one say anything bad about one’s own child?” Oftentimes, the farmer finds utter happiness by working on his coffee beans “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.” In the future, the coffee farmer plans to expand his business and provide natural sundried coffee as well. At the moment, Sorsa has enough land, however, financial constraints are withholding his activities.

Despite the financial constraints that Sorsa is facing, he acknowledges that prosperity and wealth are slowly making their way to Guji – the province where he has lived for 42 years. “Most of the change is good. Before, 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.”

Especially logistics is extremely important for Sorsa, as he has to transport his coffee beans in order to sell them. The farmer remembers a time when “there was no road leading to Suge. 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.”

Looking at Tesfaye’s story, the usefulness of transparency tools, like Trace, are two-fold: it can give us consumers clarity about the sustainability of our food, but it can also give us a face as to who are the people who produce our food. In turn, demanding the integration of such transparency tools in food businesses as the responsible consumers that we are, will not only benefit us but also farmers, like Sorsa, who make a living of off producing our consumption products.

You can now see the story behind your Trabocca coffee for yourself!

It seems you also care about the people behind our food.

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