Global Warming ‘Affecting’ Ethiopian Coffee Farmers

 In Coffee News

Climate change and global warming is having an impact on farmers in Ethiopia, the biggest coffee producer in Africa, with coffee farmers now saying that the amount of the drink that can be produced is fluctuating because of more intense and drier conditions.

According to an Al Jazeera report, farmers in the country are now resorting to all sorts of interesting measures in order to bump up their crops, such as planting fake banana trees to help provide more shade for the coffee plants.

Optimum conditions for coffee plants to thrive are mild temperatures between 15 and 26 degrees C, and farmers are now considering moving to higher regions to find better climates as low-land areas are being hit with higher temperatures.

Coffee farmer Melese Gebergiorgis was quoted by the news source as saying: “Coffee is the most important crop for this country. Coffee is the country’s biggest export earner, which is why the government is so focused on helping deal with the effects of climate change.”

A recent study from KEW and the Environment and Coffee Forest Forum – Coffee Farming and Climate Change in Ethiopia – suggested that Arabica coffee could in fact be extinct by the end of the century unless the current climate change trends can be reversed.

Arabica coffee is a forest plant only found in the highlands of Ethiopia and in a small part of South Sudan. It’s been used as both a food and beverage in Ethiopia for thousands of years and as such, Ethiopia is widely regarded as the cultural and biological home of coffee. Today, around 525,000 hectares of coffee are planted in Ethiopia and coffee farming alone provides a livelihood for approximately 15 million Ethiopians, or 16 per cent of the population.

Feedback from coffee farming communities on coffee production and coffee plant stress shows that climate change is already having a negative impact and in some areas, dramatic forest loss is already being seen. Furthermore, many places that are currently suitable for growing coffee will become less so as time goes on – and in some cases, become completely unsuitable. But it’s also worth noting that other substantial places that were previously unsuitable for farming will become suitable in the future.

Forest cover is vital for coffee because if provides the right kind of conditions for cultivation through the reduction of daytime air and soil temperatures, as well as preserving moisture in the soil and increasing humidity. But temperature and moisture of the air and soil can be changed by certain farming interventions, such as irrigation, mulching and shade management.

Terracing – already practised in the Harar and Rift coffee zones – could also be beneficial because it can drastically improve soil quality and also reduce water run-off and soil erosion. When used in combination with irrigation it can be especially effective.

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