Located within the famous Sidama coffee-producing region of Ethiopia, the Keramo Station works directly with smallholder producers to mill coffee for export. Daye Bensa, the exporting organization in Ethiopia, provides assistance to producers to sell their coffee.
The owner of the mill, Asefa Dukamo, was introduced to coffee at a young age as his parents were cultivating coffee and other garden crops. In his teens, he began to supply neighboring coffee washing stations with cherries purchased from nearby relatives and villagers in addition to his own family’s farm. He realized that there were not many washing stations nearby, and he had to travel great distances to deliver his coffee. Thus began the idea to construct his own washing station to reduce the travel time for coffee
producers in his region.
In 1997, he constructed a washing station in the Girja village, less than one mile from his parents’ house. The following year, another washing station was constructed in Eltama, 30 kms from Girja. Dukamo then moved to the Daye town in the Bensa district, setting up the mother washing station called Qonqana. Eventually, a dry mill was added to provide facilities for naturally processed coffees. Asefa’s younger brother, Mulugeta Dukamo, is the co-founder of Daye Bensa Coffee exporters, and played a key role in the expansion of the washing stations. Today, Daye Bensa operates in six woredas: Bensa, Bura, Chabe, Hoko (Girja), Aroressa and Chire with 20 washing stations, five mills and three coffee farms.
As well as coffee, producers in the region will plant other crops such as sugarcane, a variety of fruits and “Inset”; a common indigenous plant that can be prepared as food in different forms. Income from coffee is important, but minimal for most farmers due to the small size of their farms. As such, inputs are minimal – most coffee grown in the region is 100% organic, though not certified due to high certification costs, as farmers simply do not have the money to apply chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides.
Producers working with the Keramo Station face a number of obstacles when growing coffee. This includes a lack of access to electricity, water, telecommunication, and road access. In addition, producers in the region suffer from reduced exposure to knowledge on the best coffee farming practices which can directly impact yield and quality.
Fortunately, Daye Bensa has been working to combat these challenges, initiating their “Back to the Community” projects. So far, projects have included the building of roads to connect villages, installing electricity transformers and supplying producers with training in coffee plantation etiquette and better agricultural practices. Daye Bensa has numerous goals outlined for the coming years including an improvement on agricultural training and the construction of a Health Facility for producers and families. The impact the Dukamo family has on the region is significant due to the many farms they have been able to reach – educating youths about coffee production and connecting producers to global coffee markets.
For processing, the journey begins with only the ripest cherries being selectively handpicked. Once collected, the cherries are delivered to the mill to be sorted based on density and quality. This process is carried out by
submerging the cherries in tanks and removing the floating cherries prior to drying. After sorting, the cherries are then de-pulped by machine and transferred into fermentation tanks for 24 hours. Once fermentation is
complete, the coffee is rushed through tunnels and pushed with wooden tools to remove the mucilage.
After the washing process is complete, the coffee is moved to traditional raised beds lined with mesh nets. The coffee rests here for roughly 12-15 days depending on temperature and humidity, rotation occurring every 30 minutes. Following this stage, the coffee is dried, and producers will generally travel via horseback or motorcycle 2-5kms to the dry mill. At the mill, the coffee is hulled via machine.
The Keramo Station is one example, whereby producers bring coffee cherries to be processed and purchased. The Keramo Station is named after the well-known coffee-producing village in this region.