Tadesse Meskela

General Manager, Oromia Coffee Farmers' Co-operative Union, Ethiopia

Tadesse Meskela
© Fairtrade Foundation
Tadesse works tirelessly to market Oromia’s coffee to Fairtrade, organic and speciality buyers around the world so that his members will get a just reward for their crop. In recent years he has promoted Oromia coffee on speaking tours across Australia and the US.

"Our members have greatly benefited from the profits Fairtrade has generated. On top of that, we are now getting technical and financial support that enables us to continue our tradition of excellence. Therefore, Fairtrade membership is very important to our organization and its members." Tadesse Meskela.

Tadesse is a 46-year-old coffee farmer from Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. Raised in a farming family, his father was the first in their community to send all 12 of his children to school. Tadesse is now married with four children of his own.

Tadesse is dedicated to improving the lives of poor farmers struggling with rock-bottom coffee prices and was instrumental in establishing the Oromia Co-operative Union. In the early 1990s he was working as a senior expert in the state Agricultural Bureau responsible for promoting the co-operative model in the Oromia region. After a two-month co-operative training placement in Japan, Tadesse was inspired by the idea of primary co-operatives joining together in unions as a way for farmers to retain the huge sums of money being paid out for the services of middlemen and exporters. He worked with the management and farmers of a number of co-operatives as well as the government co-operative bureau to form a strong union capable of processing and exporting coffee on behalf of its members. In 1999, Oromia Coffee Farmers’ Co-operative Union was established with 35 member co-operatives, the first of its kind in Ethiopia, and Tadesse was appointed as General Manager. Membership has recently risen to 74 co-operatives, representing 68,691 smallholder farmers with a total of 343,455 family members.


Eleven of Oromia’s co-operatives, all organic, have been Fairtrade certified since May 2000. They represent almost 9,000 farmers and produce around 3,000 tonnes of organic coffee a year. In 2003, they sold 950 tonnes to Fairtrade markets in Europe and the US.

The co-operatives receive a guaranteed minimum price of $1.41 a pound for Fairtrade sales. This includes a 15 cents organic premium and the 5 cents Fairtrade premium reserved for education, health and credit programmes that their communities desperately need. Four primary schools are being built to help farmers keep their children in school; two clean water pumps have been installed; two clinics are under construction; seven coffee washing stations have been completed or are under construction; and farmers have used the extra income to build or repair houses and purchase livestock.

Where to buy

Oromia is one of three Fairtrade certified co-operatives that supply Oxfam’s new Café Progreso chain of high street coffee bars. The co-operatives’ 25% a share of Progreso means they will profit directly from the success of the business. Oromia coffee is also available from Marks & Spencer’s in-store Café Revives, Matthew Algie’s Tiki Fairtrade range and Equal Exchange’s Mocca and Ethiopian coffees.
 Fairtrade Foundation 2005

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