Promotion of wild coffee and honey as sustainable forest products

Project description

Title: Promotion of sustainable forest products from biosphere reserves in Ethiopia
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Ethiopia
Partner: Original Food GmbH and Tuchel & Sohn GmbH
Lead executing agency: Kafa and Sheka Coffee and Honey Unions
Overall term: 2015 to 2017

Ethiopia. Mengistu is a well-known honey producer in Sheka, who sells honey directly to its inhabitants in his shop and wants to be part of the export supply chain. © GIZ


Ethiopia is famous for being the birthplace of coffee, and it has some of the world’s best coffee varieties. In south-western Ethiopia are the Kafa and Sheka biosphere reserves, which include some of Africa’s last montane rainforests. The reserves ensure the preservation of thousands of wild coffee trees and their broad gene pool. These are of crucial importance for the future development of resilient, high yielding coffee plants. Thanks to the large number and great diversity of plant species, the honey produced in these forests also has a unique flavour and quality.

Despite of the biosphere status, there is immense pressure on the forests in Kafa and Sheka. The high population growth rate causes poverty in the local population, which in turn leads to the degradation of natural resources and biodiversity.

A promising strategy for reversing these trends is to increase the value of existing forests by creating income opportunities, based on the use of products harvested sustainably in the forests. The best know products in these regions are wild coffee and honey.


Through the production and processing of honey and wild coffee, smallholder farmers and their families in Kafa and Sheka enjoy higher and more secure incomes. The montane rainforests of the Ethiopian biosphere reserves are better protected.

Ethiopia.  The mountain rainforests in south-western Ethiopia are known as the origin of the coffee plant and contain innumerable plants and animals. © GIZ


The German companies Original Food and Tuchel & Sohn have entered into a joint initiative with the GIZ intended to promote local forest products while preventing the continued loss of biodiversity.

The main interest of the private companies is to develop long-term relationships with the Ethiopian farmers as suppliers, and to establish their products in the European market. Thus smallholder farmers gain access to the international export market. They can achieve higher prices and diversify their incomes.

The project supports the development of business relationships and product certification processes (for wild, organic and fair trade), while promoting value addition and quality improvements. It also carries out capacity building for local smallholder organisations, enabling them to manage the export process independently.


As a result of a predecessor project involving GIZ and Original Food, 6,000 smallholder farmers in Kafa now earn their livelihoods from wild coffee sales. In the biosphere reserve, there are now 20 cooperatives involved in the trade. Over the last ten years, the Kafa Forest Coffee Farmers’ Union has become a reliable business partner. The current project continues the support for the Kafa Union, while also transferring best practices to new regions like Sheka.

The project partners have contributed to strengthening the local economy and maintaining biological diversity among the wild coffee plants. One of the project’s biggest contributions to the region was the creation of a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 2009. Some 13 per cent of the reserve, which measures more than half a million hectares in total, is used sustainably by local communities. These include half of the wild coffee supplier cooperatives.

To develop the honey trade as a further source of income, the project supports the local value chain and quality assurance. More than 1,300 smallholder farmers from 10 cooperatives have received training, and have been given equipment, packaging materials and advice on honey processing.

The Sheka biosphere reserve covers almost a quarter of a million hectares, of which about a quarter is used sustainably. The majority of the selected cooperatives count as sustainable forest users and have been integrated into the export trade.


Additional information

Additional information