Bringing Back Ethiopia’s Coffee Trees to Life

Coffee is one of the major globally traded agricultural commodities, with production occurring in developing countries and consumption in developed countries. Ethiopia is the largest coffee exporter of Africa, and coffee accounts for 22 percent of the country’s exports.

In the world markets, Ethiopia’s Arabica coffee is treasured for its unique taste. Ninety-five percent of the country’s coffee is produced by an estimated 4 million smaller farm holders.

Despite being in a leading position in Africa and the incredible developments made in the coffee trade in the past decade, recent researches indicate that the Ethiopian coffee sector is underperforming.

Ethiopian yields are a little higher than those of Kenya and Rwanda, but lesser than Uganda’s- and only a half to one-third the size of major Latin American producers. Meanwhile, Ethiopian farmers, receive a smaller share of export prices compared to most other countries.

Low Productivity of Ethiopia’s Coffee Trees

Ethiopia has made steady incremental progress towards addressing these shortcomings. Government agencies and NGO’s like Buna Qela have been offering extension services, and the regular agent visits and the level of agent advice are credited with improved productivity. Recommended practices include planting improved cultivars, strategic pruning, and the rejuvenation of aging trees.

Increased yield is achieved through the better use of leguminous shade trees, fertilizers (compost and manure), and weeding. Selective harvesting has resulted in a more homogenous and higher quality coffee; so is true in post-harvest wet washing of coffee cherries and other developments in drying methods.

Despite all these efforts to distribute improved seedlings, access to good varieties remains an issue.

Bringing Ethiopia’s Coffee Trees Back to Life

Buna Qela established under the leadership of Kerchanshe Trading PLC, has been running many innovative initiatives in coffee farming communities in a different zone of Oromia and the SNNP regional states that are also close to Kerchanshe Trading PLC’s operational areas.

The main social objectives of Kerchanshe Trading PLC is improving food security and health for vulnerable populations; increasing export volumes; improving credit access to farmers, providing technical assistance and inputs; marketing; strengthening premium market channels climate change mitigation initiatives; and involving more women and youth in to coffee production.

“Improving productivity of coffee trees have been a major area of interest for Kerchanshe. To achieve this objective Kerchanshe and Buna Qela provided 5 million coffee seedlings for the farmers to enhance farmer’s productivity.”

Ethiopia’s coffee trees have low productivity which poses an issue for millions of farmers dependent on coffee production for their livelihoods. Driven by low productivity many coffee plantation has been expanding to forest areas and increasing emissions from the forest sector. To overcome this issue, Kerchanshe and Buna Qela provided 5 million coffee seedlings for the farmers to enhance farmer’s productivity.

Trainers from farmers’ training centers (FTC) under Kerchanshe, use demonstration plots on coffee farms to demonstrate various sustainable farming techniques, including the seemingly counter-productive practice of stumping. Stumping is the process of pruning older and less productive trees down to a stump which in turn stimulates the growth of new sprouts that develop into new branches within a few months.

It is a proven technique that results in a threefold increase in yields and a tremendous increase in income within three years. By invigorating existing trees, stumping decreases the need for farmers to move to other crops that deplete the soil of nutrients and are often unprofitable than coffee. Also, the trees produced are healthier and are able to withstand pests, disease, and erratic weather that come with a changing climate.

Ensuring High-Quality Coffees in the Years to Come

Ethiopia has the perfect climatic conditions to grow high quality coffee without any use of chemical fertilizers. Systematic training and provision of resources for small holder farmers are the key to tap into these natural advantages. Showing them the various ways of increasing incomes from the land is the effective way to ensure high quality coffees in the years to come while protecting the environment.