Climate Change and Sustainable Agriculture in Ethiopia

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Climate Change and Sustainable Agriculture in Ethiopia

The Ethiopian Marketplace reports that Ethiopia aims to be climate-neutral by 2025 and create more jobs in the process by applying sustainable agriculture and restoring millions of hectares of its degraded forests.

According to the article, Ethiopia is Africa’s largest producer of coffee, and it is a source of livelihood to 15 million Ethiopians. According to a legend, a young goatherd, Khalid, discovered coffee in Kafa’s mountain forest when his goats ate the red berries and became rambunctious. He ate some as well, and that’s where it all started.

Coffee grows wild in Ethiopia, protected by mountain forest canopy in the regions close to the border with South Sudan.

When people think of Ethiopia, they tend to see it as an arid landscape due to the widespread images from the historic 1984 famine that devastated the country. The Bench-Sheko zone in the southwest part of the country is lush and green, with altitudes between 1500 to 2000 meters and receiving around 2 meters of rainfall each year. 

Partnerships for Forests highlights the importance of Ethiopian forests for coffee growing and a significant carbon sink. “Coffee grows in about 400,000 hectares of Ethiopia’s forest, including some of its last remaining old-growth forests such as Kafa, Sheka and Belete-Gera.

These forests are globally important since they sequester high amounts of carbon, promote biodiversity and provide the genetic base for high-quality arabica coffee; the Kafa Forest alone contains over 5,000 coffee varieties.”

However, Ethiopia’s natural forest has shrunk by a third due to agricultural expansion and demand for fuelwood used by communities. These forests can grow high-quality specialty coffee varieties that can offer premium prices for farmers thus could be an incentive for them to preserve the forest.

Threats to coffee production and livelihoods

Deforestation and land degradation are essential threats to coffee production and the livelihoods of people depending on it. Because coffee shrubs grow under the shade and protection of mountain forests, deforestation and a short-term approach to land management put this precious produce at high risk.

Helping farmers to do sustainable farming practices reports that the University of Huddersfield, England, supports Ethiopia’s rural communities to do sustainable farming and help preserve its most precious product, coffee.

Professor Adrian Wood has been working and visiting Ethiopia since 1973, linking field research to teaching and advisory support for Ethiopia’s NGOs and government agencies. His work on the five-year Community Conservation of Wild Coffee and Natural Forest (CCWCNF) is funded by UK and US charities and additional support from the University.

The University partners with non-profit organisations to help create income opportunities for communities through protecting their forests. Locals are also taught about alternative and non-timber sources of income, such as growing and harvesting honey, fruit, and spices.

Participatory forest management

According to the Ecosystem Marketplace, Ethiopia is implementing a “participatory forest management” program as part of its Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy to boost the productivity of farms.

Under the participatory forest management program, farmers are responsible for taking care of and managing their forests. Farmers are trained in modern agroforestry and helping them establish self-governing cooperatives.

The country targets to regenerate 5 million hectares of forest by 2020, making their economy carbon-neutral by 2025 because growing forests will absorb industrial GHG. If everything goes to plan, Ethiopia’s economy will be climate negative before 2030; its forests will absorb more GHG than it emits.

Agroforestry best practices and carbon offsets

According to the article, carbon finance plays a vital role in funding farmers efforts to regenerate their forests and implementing agroforestry. Farmers in the district of Wolaita Sodo has experienced the benefits from agroforestry.

When farmers planted trees among their crops, it infused their soil with nitrogen and recharged 12 depleted springs while giving work to 2000 people.

Aside from economic and environmental benefits that farmers gained by practising agroforestry, carbon offsets generated by the trees financed the farmers’ efforts.

Through carbon finance, forest regeneration activities are funded and incentivise forest preservation through carbon offsets.

It funds projects that support sustainable farming practices, teaching farmers alternative sources of income while preserving forests’ biodiversity and helps fight climate change.

To know how carbon finance is helping coffee farmers in Ethiopia, click the link below:

Source Citation:

Zwick, S. (2018, January 16). How Ethiopia Is Slowing Climate Change By Reviving Its Forests – And Its Economy. Ecosystem Marketplace. Retrieved from

Preserving coffee and forests in Ethiopia for a sustainable future. (2020, July 28). Retrieved from

Premium wild coffee from Ethiopia’s standing forest. (2021). Partnership for Forests. Retrieved from 

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