Ethiopia School Project : Beshasha School in Agaro

The Beshasha School Project has helped equip an annex to this rural local school with furniture, equipment and computers for senior students who want to get to college!

Update March 2019: After selling 8004 pounds of Agaro Nano Challa Coop and 10451 pounds of Agaro Kedamai Coop we crunched some numbers and are proud to announce that we will be donating over $3600 to Beshasha school this year. We thank everyone that took the time to purchase these coffees. Your generosity will make a big difference to the students at Beshasha. This is in addition to the core $5000 from Sweet Maria’s own giving.

Agaro is a town in Western Ethiopia I have been visiting for some time. We started coming to the western coffee zone centered around the city of Jimma back in 2010, to look in on the project by Technoserve to support existing coffee cooperatives, and assist the formation of new coops. It soon became clear that Agaro was ground zero for some very nice coffees. That year we found out about Duromina Coop in Agaro, and Nano Challa in nearby Gera town..

Since then, the coffees from Agaro have become well-known and Duromina was called a “cinderella story” in an NPR piece about the success of the coop by pursuing quality coffee. What isn’t broadcast is what that success has meant to the greater area around Agaro. On a visit a few years ago I was there to hear an informal accounting of the changes that happened since Duromina found a well-deserved market and premium price for their coffee.

It wasn’t just about the coffee coop itself, although the definitely did invest in better equipment, a new warehouse for coffee storage, and a new washing station site. They also had built roads in the community, they had bought transformers for a new power line to the area. They had funded health care and expanded schools. This was so gratifying to hear, that the benefit from the coffee premiums we had paid were going to people in the zone who didn’t even farm coffee. It sounded ideal!

Entrance sign for Beshasha School site

Now fast forward to last year, and I was traveling with an Ethiopian-American coffee exporter Mike Mamo, and the point person for the new independent cooperative Union, Keta Muduga, that included Duromina as it’s founding member. A group of coops in the greater area to form Keta Muduga so they could finally have control of the marketing of their own coffee, know their buyers, and negotiate directly on price. Before they were committed to being part of the massive Oromia Union, who was so huge they could never focus on the specific needs of localities like Agaro.

On this day we stopped by a construction project that was just getting under way. It was three buildings, and I found out it was being funded entirely by the 3 core Keta Muduga coops in Agaro: Duromina, Biftu Gudina, and Hunda Oli. They had produced something in the ballpark of $100,000 USD  (3.2 million Birr)  for the core construction. This wasn’t just another school in the area. It was for the oldest students who had aspirations to attend University in Ethiopia, but being from a rural area, lacked teachers, materials, equipment, and a study environment to pursue those ends.

The rather crowded Beshasha all-levels school nearby.

This was called Beshasha School for the nearest town, but I guess it should be Beshasha Prep. After all there is a large, vibrant and very, very crowded school just a few hundred meters down the road. That campus has all grades attending the same facility, in shifts throughout the day, because they couldn’t all possibly fit if they showed up at the same time! And that is the reason for the 3 new buildings funded by 3 coffee coops and the price they received for their coffee!

While it’s clear that coffee money has built the Beshasha School, they also needed further funding for a laundry list of things; 150 durable desks were top on the list, and last year Maria and I donated $5k to have strong metal frame desks produced. We have also brought new laptops for the teachers with each visit back to Agaro.

And we have also transferred another $5k for this year (2019) to be used for more desks, reference books, science lab equipment, and other fittings for the buildings. What is still needed are proper bathrooms. And also the property is unfenced at this point. It needs a fenced boundary.

Our idea in putting all this out there to you, dear reader, is you can help! We would love to double our funding for the school this year, and make it really easy for our customers to contribute to. What we have in mind is a small premium added to selected lots of Keta Muduga coffees in 2019, 10 cents or 20 cents lets say. A Duromina coffee that is $6.30 would be $6.50, and that .20 goes entirely to Beshasha University Prep school!  I hope this sounds like a good idea to you all, and when we list a coffee benefiting Beshasha School, we’ll make sure it’s clear in the coffee description.

When I update this article after the funding is achieved, I hope to add new photos of what the very tangible result has been toward supporting rural students to realize their education dream! -Tom