The following blog is taken from our 2017 Impact Report. Be sure to download the report to read more about RENEW’s approach to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The expression, “It’s not our job, it’s theirs” is a phrase that resonates with the RENEW team. As we look around our portfolio, we see great examples of Ethiopian entrepreneurs, committed to their businesses and communities and making significant impact that aligns with the SDGs. METAD is one such example.
The IAN closed an investment into METAD, an Ethiopian specialty coffee company, in October 2013 and made a second investment in 2015. The investments helped establish two coffee processing facilities on the METAD coffee farms, located near Yirgacheffe in the districts of Hambela and Gedeb in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. At the end of 2017, the company reported they were employing 200 people on a permanent basis and 1,200 seasonal laborers, in addition to supporting 5,400 out growers.
We sat down recently with METAD’s CEO Aman Adinew and this is what he said.
What’s your vision for METAD?
From a business standpoint, we aim to be the best in specialty coffee. We started out to build a company that is socially responsible, environmentally conscious and making the highest possible impact in the community. That’s why we chose coffee. We saw the gaps and problems in the value chain, and we’ve focused on the opportunity of building a trusted, specialty coffee brand. Enhancing the lives of the people we work with…that’s the vision. That’s the biggest impact we can make.
How do you engage the community?
It’s key to meet leaders, elders and the community. Once you gain acceptance, they treat you like their son. They trust and respect you. We’ve been lucky at both our processing sites. The people welcomed us and truly know we are there to help them. We’ve significantly raised the average price per kilogram of coffee for the farmer by 30-40%.
We focus a lot on education. It matters, because we have the opportunity to groom the next generation of leaders. Ethiopia is still a tribal place. My farm is in an area dominated by a tribe that is not my own. My presence and community engagement is breaking down stereotypes. The people see me putting additional money in their pockets, educating their children and helping to build the community. This is more satisfying than the EBIDTA that I have been able to accomplish.
Specifically, we subsidize teacher salaries; we have built a school that holds 800 students; and we are adding an additional wing this year. The community leaders are asking for water, so we are hoping to build a well soon. We also sponsor 105 students from the area to attend college at Gilla University. For our 5,400 out growers, we have built a community center where we provide training to enable them to get premium values for their coffee, and we make a second payment to them at the end of the year, to essentially share our profit with them. We’ve been able to get all of them certified organic. The community center is also used for community meetings and other trainings including family planning seminars. The average family size is 12 in their area. Some families have 15-20 children which is unfortunately some of the highest per capita in the world.
What kind of diversity are you aiming for in your work force?
At the farm about 70% of our workers are women. At our headquarters, it’s about 50%. I won’t say there aren’t challenges, it’s hard for women from our headquarters to be taken seriously by some in the field near the farm, but we are working on it. Our staff are highly paid in our industry. We try to recruit the best, and then when the company grows, they benefit. We also encourage our team to take courses. Our high performing people attend conferences and also learn the export side of the business. Above all, I try to lead by example. I even stay at the farm for two months during the coffee harvest to show them that I am committed and with them.
Any special programs for women?
We helped bring Grounds for Health to Ethiopia and they run a program in coffee areas to screen workers and out growers, and others in coffee for cervical cancer. It’s an important and lifesaving initiative, we are proud to be a part of.
We are also founding members of a group called Equal Origin which encourages women in coffee. Currently of our 5,400 out growers, most are men, but this doesn’t mean that the women don’t play a key role in the coffee production. So, we are educating families about equal rights, and in partnership with some of our buyers, including Intelligentsia, we are encouraging husbands, brothers and fathers to register their wives, sisters and daughter on the land documentation. Women are doing a lot of the work, and we, along with our buyers, are willing to pay a premium for families who are willing to recognize equal rights. Some people are rigid, but what we find in the communities where we work, is that most are open to change. And the economic benefit helps too!
Why do your customers choose METAD?
Our customers care about our story. That’s the beauty of specialty coffee. Specialty coffee is all about the community in which the coffee is produced. Buyers are willing to pay for good coffee. A whole story like METAD is exciting to them. Coffee they can find anywhere. But good coffee with a story is what our buyers are looking for
Renew Capital is an Africa-focused impact investment firm that backs innovative companies with high-growth potential. Renew Capital manages investments made on behalf of the Renew Capital Angels, a global network of angel investors, foundations and family offices who seek financial returns and sustainable social impact. For the latest on investing in Africa, subscribe and follow us at our social links below.