A delicious coffee bursting with citrus, yellow plum, a hint of matcha tea and chewy toffee
The Yayu Forest Reserve in south-west Ethiopia is one of the last and most important remaining places for the preservation of wild Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica). This largely forested landscape is also a hotspot for biodiversity, with numerous rare plants and animals. Coffee farming generates up to 70% of the cash income for over 90% of the population at Yayu. However, many farmers in the area are struggling to make sufficient income from coffee, which leads to a conversion away from forest-based farming to non-forest crops, resulting in deforestation and biodiversity loss.
In 2014 we started a collaborative project with Dr Aaron Davis (Head of Coffee Research, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) and partners in Ethiopia, to work with the communities at Yayu. Our aim is to increase the income for Yayu farmers, via improvements in coffee quality and by providing access to market via direct trade. Through maintaining forest-based coffee farming systems we hope to stabilize deforestation and preserve biodiversity. The project also aims to better understand how Yayu farmers can make their coffee farms more resilient in to climate change.
The community of Gechi Co-operative, in Illubabor is connected to the natural resources through a system called Participatory Forest management which relates to the sustainable use of forest resources. They have been shown that with careful intervention, the forest produces an abundance of coffee, honey spices and other non-timber forest products. It was shown that the success of conserving the biodiversity depends on improving the livelihoods of the local community by sustainably managing these natural resources.
Managed forest production allows farmers in carefully allocated zones to gently prune the canopy without removing trees thus allowing more light down to the forest floor. Here the naturally occurring coffee seedlings that rise from coffee fruit scattered by animals and falling from mature trees are allowed to grow and become commercially productive. Union supports this by paying sustainable prices, this allows the community to successfully exploit the reserves without deforestation.