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METAD PLC: A Force of Innovation in Ethiopia's Coffee Industry

By Lulit Negash | Sun Nov 22 2015
Partners of RENEW, Matt and Laura Davis, recently visited one of METAD Agricultural Development PLC’s farm sites to check on the coffee pre-harvest preparation. 75 kilometers beyond Yirgacheffe, deep in the heart of some of Ethiopia’s best coffee country, METAD’s 200 hectare Hambela farm includes a washing station, dry mill, beds for sun drying, a large warehouse and guest bungalows. Altogether, METAD employs 28 permanent staff and 700 seasonal staff, 70% or more of which are women, and they partner with more than 700 out growers to provide best practices on growing, harvesting and selling coffee.
One such permanent METAD employee is Solomon Teklemariam. A native of Addis Ababa, Solomon studied agriculture at Hawassa University, which prepared him for his role as METAD’s coffee quality manager. During Matt and Laura’s visit to the Hambela farm, Solomon was their capable guide, providing detailed and informed answers to all of the questions they had about the farm’s pre-harvest activities. The RENEW team and several IAN members who have visited the METAD laboratory in Addis have met Solomon and learned from his cupping expertise.
The RENEW team sat down with Solomon to learn more about his important role at METAD and his contribution to one of Ethiopia’s most prized value chains - coffee.
When did you start working at METAD?

I started working at METAD less than a year ago (maybe eight months), but I used to work as a consultant before joining the company full time. Back when the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) was first established, I used to work there with Aman Adinew, the CEO of METAD. So, I have known Aman long before METAD was even started when I used to work as a cupper at the ECX.
What coffee related education and/or training have you received to date?

I studied agriculture science in college, and after graduating I immediately joined the ECX as a coffee cupper, where I gained ample experience in the coffee industry. Prior to joining METAD I took several trainings on coffee cupping and quality grading. At the ECX I used to work as a Q-Grader (quality grader of specialty coffee). Around five or six years ago, I took a coffee quality training course facilitated by the Ethiopian government and received a certificate. I also took a training course from Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) on coffee tasting and quality grading from the seed to the final tasting stages. I received a certificate from CQI, which is upgraded every three years. Then, I received a basic training certificate from the Haron Agronomy Department on coffee processing from the nursery to cupping. I have also received training from the Jimma University research center on coffee disease control.
What is your position title at METAD, and what are your responsibilities?

I am the coffee quality manager at METAD. My main responsibilities are: training and supervising farm managers, as well as quality control from the nursery to the final production stage - picking, sorting, washing, processing, drying, heat/moisture control, controlling coffee parchment. The process of quality control continues until the coffee reaches the warehouse and is shipped to its export destination. I also tag the coffee for customers until the export is done, test and control coffee, including cupping and sample storing and registering works.
In your own words, what is METAD’s philosophy or outlook on Ethiopian coffee? What is METAD trying to achieve at the local and international levels?

METAD aims to provide specialty coffee for customers that is geographically traceable. Any customer looking to see the origin of the coffee they buy can easily track its origins from seed to cup. Quality and traceability are the two important components of coffee processing that have not been done in Ethiopia before. METAD is one of the pioneers in this section. As the international specialty coffee market requires the best quality coffee, METAD aims to sell this kind of coffee to clients. We also provide trainings to the farmers we buy coffee from on various issues to help them produce high quality coffee. The company aims to serve the world the best quality Ethiopian coffee, which helps METAD obtain its organic coffee certification and helps the farmers that the company buys from receive a premium price for their crop.
What kind of social impact has METAD created in the local community around the farm?

METAD has provided various trainings for the farmers in the Hambela and Gedeb area, where both METAD’s farms are located. The farmers also benefit from the out growers program with METAD, as they will get premium prices for their coffee due to the company’s organic certifications. METAD also supports the farmers and their families by building schools and providing learning equipment for them, building town halls for holding meetings and is currently working on providing clean water for the farmers.
Has working for METAD changed your life for the better?

Definitely, I have worked with Aman before, and I have enjoyed his mentorship. Working at METAD has changed my life because I am able to gain experience and improve my skills, and I also earn a better salary than I did from my previous jobs. My family is very happy because I enjoy what I do.
What is your favorite part about working for METAD as the coffee quality manager?

I enjoy working at the laboratory because it is less tiring, but when it comes to the actual work and testing the quality of the coffee, spending time at the farm is important. My job is not limited to one place, so I enjoy both farm work and office (laboratory) work. The most satisfactory part is working at the farm and controlling the quality and agronomy.
Have you tried METAD coffee, and if so what do you think?

Yes, I have tried it many times. In fact, I only drink METAD coffee - both at the farm and at the office. It is one of the best coffees in Ethiopia and this is one of the reasons I joined the company. METAD provides a high quality coffee, and in my opinion as a cupper, has a unique future and is ranked above 90% for specialty coffee - especially the coffee from Hambela.
How has your position at METAD inspired you?

It has inspired me to be one of the best coffee quality graders in Ethiopia. I believe working at METAD is a good opportunity for me because it is one of the top coffee producing companies in the country. In 5 to 10 years, I want to be a well-known coffee cupper and quality grader in Ethiopia. I want to improve my skills in agronomy, coffee trade and the overall process from seed to cup. I want to be an expert on coffee. I also want to improve economically, to provide a better life for my family and myself. This all depends on the performance of METAD, which I plan to contribute my best effort to.
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.

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