Promoting forest conservation through better marketing of wild coffee

Project description

Title: Ethiopia Wild Coffee – Supply Chain Project
Commissioned by: Partnerships for Forests (P4F)
Country: Ethiopia
Lead executing agency: Ethiopian Coffee and Tea Authority (ECTA)
Overall term: 2018 to 2020


Ethiopia is the original home and largest producer of Arabica coffee. Coffee production is a key driver of the economy. Over a third of Ethiopia's export revenues are now generated by coffee. About one sixth of the population relies on coffee cultivation and trade for a livelihood.

In addition to its economic importance, coffee also plays an important environmental role. An estimated 45 percent of the country's production comes from natural forests, some of which contain Ethiopia's last remaining old-growth forests. These forests bind over 200 million tons of carbon and are considered one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots.

Despite its importance, much of Ethiopia’s forest coffee is still sold as inferior coffee because of variable quality. Only a few smallholder cooperatives are able to secure higher prices for their coffee, often only if international buyers are actively involved on the ground. At the same time, the natural forests are increasingly under threat. A growing demand for land for agriculture and human settlements has resulted in the loss of more than one third of Ethiopia’s natural forest.


The development of a premium brand and supply chain for Ethiopian forest coffee improves income opportunities for small farmers. At the same time, long-term incentives are created for the conservation of natural forest and biodiversity.


The project benefits 10,000 small farmers in five coffee-growing regions by bringing together numerous stakeholders along the coffee value chain. On the ground, the project supports farmers' cooperatives in enhancing the quality of their forest coffee through improved harvesting and post-harvest handling. The project also improves links to existing markets and opens up new marketing channels. In doing so, the project cooperates with government agencies and implements strategies to promote Ethiopian forest coffee. Measures ensure that long-term forest conservation practices in coffee production are organised and implemented to conserve the natural forests used by the farmers' cooperatives. In the long term, the population can thus benefit from the ecological and economic services provided by intact forest landscapes. This also provides an opportunity to protect forests and to increase the income of small farmers.


In the course of the first phase, the project completed an analysis of production in the five forest coffee growing regions and trained the members of 52 farmers' cooperatives in improved harvesting and post-harvest handling. Equipment has also been provided to improve production methods. This has created an initial basis for better quality coffee.

In a second step, the project supported the cooperatives in managing a sustainable value chain for forest coffee independently and efficiently. Smallholders are assisted in obtaining organic and fair trade certification, enabling them to achieve higher market prices. Currently, 28 cooperatives have obtained the relevant certification. New direct marketing channels have also been opened up.

Together with the Ethiopian coffee authority, the project has created a platform for actors along the value chain for forest coffee. This enables joint strategies for the sector to be developed and implemented.