My name is Mardiya Abagojjam. I am a coffee farmer from the Western part of the [Ethiopian] region called Jimma Abajifar. I am 32 years old, married and with five children. I am honored today. It is my first time in my whole life to stand and talk in front of many people and in a magnificent place like this. Maybe I am the first peasant woman to enter this place and sit in this chair. Thank God for this, and the organizers of this conference for allowing and giving us the opportunity to share with you the miserable living condition we are leading for the last three consecutive years.
My husband and I own two hectares of land and we grow coffee on one and a half hectares, and on the rest maize or teff. Before 1999 the income we used to get from coffee was enough to sustain us. We were able to eat and feed our children three times a day, buy clothes for our children and ourselves at least twice a year, take our children to health centers when they were sick, buy exercise books and uniforms for the children... and get involved in some community-based development activities. But now all of this has become a dream.
If you look at me these are the same clothes and shoes my husband bought for me three years ago. He is also wearing the same clothes he bought three years ago. This is the same for our children.
The other thing I would like to tell you is that my life has been worsened by the fall of the coffee price. During good times, my husband used to hire daily laborers for picking and transporting coffee beans, and my work was more limited to fetching water from the nearest spring, cooking food for the family, cleaning, looking after the children and the livestock. But now, because we can not afford to pay for other labor, my children and I have to help my husband in clearing the land, picking cherries and transporting. It is exhausting for me. I don't know if I could live three or four more years with this situation. What worries me more is the fate of my small children whose survival depended on my existence and coffee.
Please help us in finding a solution to this crisis so that the children of coffee farmers can live a decent life. Please tell us if there is anything our cooperative and we coffee farmers can do to change this situation. I am only a peasant woman from the birthplace of coffee, Choche, talking about my situation and the condition of my fellow coffee farmers in the area. I see that you are all educated and concerned people about the situation we coffee farmers are encountering this time. God bless you for your efforts.
Testimonial courtesy of Oxfam International