In Ethiopia, the majority of coffee farming is done by small farmers who own small parcels of land and use traditional methods for farming and almost no agrochemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers. Hence Ethiopian coffee can rightfully claim the title of being organic.
Ethiopian farmers normally produce nine premium varieties of fine single origin/ specialty coffees like Jimma, Nekemte, Illubabor, Limmu, Tepi, Bebeka, Yirgacheffe, Sidamo, and Harar.
There are three major coffee production system followed in Ethiopia. There are forest coffee or ‘wild’ coffee, semi- forest, garden coffee, or smallholder coffee which is cultivated in small pieces of land around houses and finally plantation coffee which is cultivated on large parcels of previously cleared forest lands. Forest coffee systems consist of forest coffee (grown with or without any human intervention) while semi forest coffee is grown under supervision.
Although productivity is low, forest coffee production accounts for 10 percent of the total coffee production. The berries are collected from state-owned forests and are mostly confined to the areas of South and southwest of Ethiopia.
The wild coffee population is under serious threat of extinction due to deforestation which arises from a rapid increase in population, inefficient current and past rural development policies, and weak intersectoral linkages.
The semi-forest production is closely similar to forest coffee production except that it is done with human intervention. Besides wild coffee, farmers may plant new coffee trees under the forest canopy and apply various agronomic practices to enhance the production and productivity of the existing coffee populations.
In terms of production, semi-forest coffee production accounts for 35 percent of the total coffee production. Geographically, semi-forest coffee production is largely practiced in South and South West Ethiopia.
The Garden coffee system can be seen in almost all the coffee-producing regions of Ethiopia. The majority of these are farmed in land under one hectare. Most often garden coffee trees are non-shaded. It accounts for 35 percent of the total national coffee production.
Finally, plantation coffee contributes 20 percent to the gross coffee production of Ethiopia. Plantations are owned by both large- and small-scale farmers. Modern agricultural practices are often employed along with improved seedlings and modern inputs.
Ethiopian economy is heavily dependent on the coffee and hence is subject to the ups and downs of the global economic shocks. These shocks are mostly felt by the small-scale coffee farmers.