Before working in coffee, Tesfaye Bekele worked for the Ethiopian government’s Natural Resources & Environmental Protection Authority, where he was responsible for the Guji and Borena zone. From 1997 to 1999 Guji was terrorised by large bushfires that destroyed over 5,000 acres of forest. It was Tesfaye’s responsibility to help the area recover from the damage, both economically and environmentally.
When the local communities returned to the land, in the first instance they began to plant fields of teff and maize, which would not have allowed for the return of the forest. Tesfaye realised that he could not stop people from returning to these deforested lands to rebuild their livelihoods, but he felt he needed to give them an alternative. His idea was to replant the forests, but also to add coffee trees to enhance diversity.
Tesfaye distributed large amounts of coffee and shade tree seedlings to the local community, but they were disheartened when they learnt that it would take four to five years for the crop to yield cherries, and gave the seedlings back. Disappointed by this, but not defeated, and determined to prove that his idea was the best option for the Guji people, Tesfaye reserved a small piece of land where he started a coffee seedling nursery with government money. He appointed several managers to oversee the nursery, but they too lost heart after years without tangible results.
Unable to find the right people to oversee his project, Tesfaye resigned from his job and became a coffee farmer. After his first harvest, the community returned to Tesfaye and asked him once again to provide the seedlings.
Today the Suke Quto Farm and the Guji region is renowned worldwide for the quality of the coffee it produces. This is something that Tesfaye takes a lot of pride in, because “all the farms you see today in Guji are inspired by the Suke Quto Farm.”
The farm itself is spread over the highlands and valleys of the Odo Shakiso woreda. The volcanic soil is incredibly fertile and benefits from organic recycling through litterfall, and root residue from coffee and shade trees. The coffees produced by Suke Quto are all organic and Rainforest Alliance certified.
In the 2019/20 harvest 278 outgrowers delivered cherries to the Suke Quto Washing and Drying Station. As part of our importing partner Trabocca’s drive to improve traceability, information regarding each of the contributing farmers, including their names and how much they were paid, can now be found here - https://trace.fairfood.org/consumer-interface/#/web/trabocca.