25 farmers formed Nano Challa Cooperative in 2004. It now represents 256 members, with Wondimu Bekele acting as Chairman and Hailu Woldehb as the Industry Manager. The cooperative members span a diverse blend of peoples from different parts of Ethiopia. During the 1980’s, many Ethiopians from the more densely populated, arid parts of the country were relocated to the fertile highlands in the west like the Gera District.
Upon visiting Nano Challa in 2010, Stumptown’s Green Coffee team immediately noticed the quality of their harvest and the active improvements to their processing operation. Nano Challa represents an immaculately clean, washed processed version of what could be some of the oldest Arabica strains in the world.
In the Gera District of Western Oromia, large tracts of pristine forests remain where tall, spindly coffee trees grow wild. While many coffee farmers in Ethiopia now plant coffee varieties recommended by local research centers, the farmers of the Nano Challa Cooperative have stayed close to traditional planting methods. Their coffee consists of an unknown number of indigenous varieties, brought from the forest and culled over generations. In addition to coffee, the Gera forest is also known for honey production. “Both coffee and honey production require us to manage our forest resources closely,” explains a local leader. “If people cannot support themselves and the forest at the same time, then the trees will be the first to suffer. We are proud that our forests have given us a gift to share with the world.”
In 2010, Nano Challa purchased a wet mill with a Penagos 500 depulping machine and produced washed coffee for the first time. Their parchment is soaked overnight, washed and then sun dried on raised beds. In just one year, Nano Challa Cooperative repaid their loans with the high premiums they received for their coffee. They now own their wet mill assets outright. This success continues to bring more area farmers to the cooperative.
New in 2013:
Stumptown is proud to be the exclusive buyer for the entire washing station this year. Nano Challa developed a reserve fund using the premiums paid in previous years. They ordered a second demucilager which will increase their capacity. Nano Challa and Stumptown discussed issues, such as irregular electricity and transportation, and potential options for future infrastructure improvement projects.