Coffee Campus

Our aim through the Coffee Campus is to help people grow the industry and create value, not simply within Bette Buna but also in other parts of the Ethiopian coffee sector.

Why was there a need for our coffee campus?

We are active in an underactive developing country, a country which is heavily reliant on the production and export of coffee. Over 33% of Ethiopia’s GDP comes from the export of coffee, so the importance of this sector is undeniable, and yet, it is a sector that is very underdeveloped. 80% of the production comes from smallholders that own under 2 hectares and on average less than a hectare. It is difficult, if not impossible with this scale for people to produce enough to sustain their lives. Many of these people don’t earn a minimum income, let alone a living income; that is enough to educate their children, pay for healthcare or afford luxuries. For this reason smallholder farmers are hugely important to Bette Buna, we know that if we want to grow we need to grow with them. For that growth, the climate needs to be safe, attractive and encouraging, we need to help them and really, we need to help the industry as a whole to develop. It’s our duty to do something.


Our aim through the Coffee Campus is to help people grow the industry and create value, not simply within Bette Buna but also in other parts of the Ethiopian coffee sector. The value that can be added to coffee cherries, through processing and exporting is typically only coming to very few people, those that have the access to rent or to buy a coffee mill and if they’re lucky the permission to export. Huge amounts of finance are involved and it’s inaccessible to most people and certainly for most farmers. Farmer’s who are typically not educated or wealthy simply can’t access the bank loans etc necessary to capture this value. We see the opportunity to at the very least allow farmers to add value to what they can receive for their freshly picked cherries. They can process them as washed, natural, anaerobic or other experimental processes that we can work on together. They can sell coffee in the dry hulled stage, which is increasing the value if it’s done well. Farmer’s that are able to add value are able to improve their living income which not only improves the situation for the farmer but also for the families and communities that those farmers support.

Another thing that is often lacking in farming communities is understanding of quality control, logistics, and knowledge of the market, i.e. understanding of the potential customer and their requirements. We educate people in these areas. The main goal of the campus is to improve the lives of smallholder farmers but also to develop the coffee sector in Ethiopia which is so important to grow the economy. It benefits Bette Buna to develop the coffee sector and work in a more mature industry but fundamentally our aim is to share opportunities that we’ve had and help others create opportunities for themselves.

The meaning of Bette Buna

Along with our farm we inherited values from our parents and grandparents, the name of the company
‘Bette Buna’ means ‘House of Coffee’, we are building a house, where everyone can find a home, a place where together we can develop in safety and happiness.

Model Farm

At our farm we train smallholder farmers in our community and surrounding communities in smart coffee agriculture. We train them in pre-harvest, how to keep the soil, prevent deforestation and restore the forest to beautiful agroforest. We also train people in improved standards for picking cherries and understanding the value in higher quality ripe cherries. Additionally there are social aspects to our work such as raising awareness of child labour and forced labour practices and building better understanding of discrimination.

On the farm in Teferi Kela at different parts of the year we organise farm training days, usually hosted by Mersha Syoum (Dawit’s father). Together with his team he trains community farmers in how they can improve the quality and the volume that they produce. This is important because it allows us to show results on our farm rather than just tell people what is best practice. 

To this end we keep sections of the farm with traditional practices like full sun light growing plants, with no shade as well as unproductive older mother trees, this way we can show them the difference between those plants productivity when compared with newer varieties chosen specifically for yield, and grown under shade. Seeing is believing especially in those very remote communities where many farmers are often illiterate. People need to see and experience how well things can work with better techniques and practices.

Model Mill

As well as processing our own lots, we also source cherries from other farmers who wouldn’t typically have the opportunity to add value to their own cherries. These farmers typically lack the processing expertise, equipment and facilities but also the financial security that is required to take risks on processing. Even classic washed and natural processes require skill, understanding and equipment and if a farmer with a small production attempted to process their own coffee they’d potentially be risking losing a significant part of their crop. So at the coffee mill, with our equipment, and our expert team on hand, we’re able to train farmers to process coffee. Additionally we can provide equipment such as raised beds for drying naturals for farmers to use at their own farm and house if it’s easier. This allows farmers to develop their skills and to achieve better prices for their coffee. It also means they can get recognition for their work as a producer, for a success story of this programme take a look at Kasim’s coffee: Special Partner Lot : SS24022.

Coffee Nursery

On our nursery which is connected to our farm we facilitate things needed for farmers to take the first steps towards improving their situation. We grow over 350,000 seedlings per year, the majority of those seedlings are of course coffee but also some shade trees, avocados, papayas. Those seedlings are handed out for free to farmers that we’ve been working with and training.

Our nursery team consists of a lot of different people, and it’s a really lovely team. Among our nursery team are single mothers some of whom are the parents of children with disabilities. In Ethiopia even in the capital life isn’t easy for disabled people and their families as a lot of old fashioned attitudes around disability exist, in rural areas that stigma and lack of support is all the more pronounced. The women who work in our nursery are so driven to grasp the opportunities in front of them that they have been incredibly valuable team members and we hope to set a good example to the wider community of what people can achieve when they are given a chance.

There are a lot of neglected farms that have some coffee but a lot of Eucalyptus which grows quickly and can be sold for wood but is terrible as it absorbs so much water and also makes the soil very acidic. Our solution to this is alongside coffee seedlings we encourage farmers to plant maize which is a 1 year crop so gives a much quicker return than coffee which takes 2 or 3 years to reach maturity. The maize delivers proof of concept much more quickly than coffee, like coffee it requires looking after the soil, but the farmers will get results rather than having to trust in the process and teachings for multiple years without any return. So maize eases the transition towards the agroforestry systems we encourage for small holder farmers, so they can improve their living income and situation in general.

Training Lab

The other part of our Coffee Campus is based in Addis, we refer to it as our lab. We have a ‘Work and Learn’ training programme, which is a two year course. We hire a certain number of trainees mainly from the coffee communities we work with but also sometimes from Addis. The course is paid, firstly, the course covers the fundamentals of coffee, this includes basics of farming and processing as well as an overview of the history of coffee and the various growing origins. The second part of the course is sensory, teaching people how to taste and assess coffee, specifically understanding Ethiopian coffee and quality thereof. We train our students to be able to grade Ethiopian coffees and also to discern regional differences. It is important that cuppers can taste the difference between typical profiles for Guji, Limu, Sidamo, Yirgacheffe etc. Additionally we teach the fundamentals of roasting. We’ve imported two 6kg Giesen roasters and a sample roaster so that our students can understand roasting and communicate with potential customers in the future.Finally we train our students about logistics, coffee trade and physically moving coffee from the farm to the port in Djibouti is very complicated and there are a lot of steps to understand. We need a lot more professionals in this sector so after this two year programme and all the different aspects there is an exam and the students will either be hired by us or we will create a job position with our partner exporters who are very keen to hire professionals with this level of training and understanding.
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