Andy, Ethiopia, and Traceability…Part Three…

| December 15, 2010

My friend, his team, and I have now traveled south. We are in a beautiful city called Hawassa which is just south of Sashamene in the Sidama region of Ethiopia. The drive from Addis Ababa south was quite the adventure. If you have not gone on a long drive in a thrid world country yet, let me be the first to tell you it’s a freaking blast! Leaving Addis by road is like stepping into a blender of exhaust, stock animals, daredevil drivers, dogs, pot holes, bikes, three-wheel scooters, motorcycles, semi trucks, horses and buggys, and people streaking across the road (occasionally without clothing). Now turn that blender on high and hold on…

I believe the team and I almost lost our lives 3 separate times, and then there’s the drivers. If our drivers had cat lives, they would be well into the negatives with the stunts they pull. But, don’t let my joke deter you, everyone should try a long drive in a third world country. It might just put hair on your chest or at least a lot of exhaust in your lungs. 


I believe a big thing we should all realize is taking daily risks like driving through the blender above is a part of everyday life here in Ethiopia. Picture our green coffee making a crazy four or five hour – if not longer -  drive through a roller coaster of variables. At any minute the semi truck carrying our container of coffee could go through a number of imaginable scenarios causing our coffee to be delayed or potencially destroyed. Could this scenario also affect cost or payment down the chain? Could it effect coffee quality? Could it affect the environment?  I don’t believe I’ve ever once had this thought until we were face to face with a coffee-weilding container truck playing chicken with us in our lane.

I am not in Ethiopia to discuss shipping green coffee containers or the wild roads of Addis. To be honest, it’s just hard not to throw another light onto how many people and variables that are involved from seed to cup, especially when you find yourself in the thick of it.

It all makes me realize there are many lives touched by coffee or that touch coffee everyday; and I would say that many who do the touching often get ignored. That thought alone is a big reason why Caffé Vita sent me to Hawassa. In more or less words (less since the project is not yet finished), I am here with a team to work on a project that can help give the farmers in Sidama and their co-ops an identity that is more accessible to the people at home. In hopes that the consumer (which includes everyone not growing the coffee) can better trace the supply chain to help us understand the roller coast of events that takes place from the ground to your lips. Tracing the supply chain can also help to better educate (again) the consumers by continually increasing the amount of sustainable buying practices and giving credit to the ones that are already on board. In a nutshell, traceability creates transparency in the supply chain and in return can create a higher selling price for the farmers who grow, harvest and process exceptional coffees by giving us all better access to who these people are.

So, now that I am off of my small soap box, it is time to head to the farms. I will be visiting two or three co-ops today, so the team and I can start laying down the ground work for the project.  I promise one thing, the first coffee tree I find will mostly likely get my arms rapped around it…

Stay tuned for more posts from Andy in Ethiopia…

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