The Problem with Ethiopian Wild Coffee with the Forest

With the cup of smoked coffee in hand, great plans and development are being made all over the world. No matter how many epics are being created. But have you ever thought about the story behind this smoky coffee?

If you ever try to find out the origin of this drink with a packet of coffee bought for 10 rupees, the first name that will appear in front of you is Ethiopia.

The only popular breed of this drink produced in Ethiopia is Wild Coffee, also known as Wild Coffee Arabica. And there is a special custom in Ethiopia to serve this coffee. But what is this wild coffee? And why is it a topic of discussion?

Production, preparation, and service

Harena forest is one of the largest forests in Ethiopia. The forest covers the mountains of Bell National Park, 350 kilometers south of the country’s capital, Addis Ababa.

In this forest, which is about 1800 meters high, a kind of Arabica coffee grows naturally in the shade of various tall trees. This is called ‘Wild Coffee’ which is popular all over the world.

Farmers collect these coffee seeds empty-handed. And in this case, their main disadvantage is the wild baboon. In other parts of the world, especially in the Presidia of Latin America, coffee beans are washed with water after collection.

But in the case of this Ethiopian coffee, the smoke comes later. Immediately after collection, the seeds of this wild coffee are placed in a hanging net and dried in the sun. The dried seeds are then peeled. Then they are washed.

Not only in production and preparation, but this coffee also has a very unique and traditional serving tradition. A woman in the family is responsible for serving this coffee. First, a carpet or mat is made with freshly cut grass and fresh flowers to welcome the guest. A cup without a handle (in some cases there may be a handle) of tea is placed on a tray on a mat made of grass and flowers.

The washed and dried seeds are then roasted or fried. This process continues until the seeds are slightly lighter in color. Guests are then shown the light-colored seeds.

At this time, the atmosphere of the house became intoxicating with the soothing smell created by the freshly roasted seeds. And this perfume is better to spread by the woman with the help of the special posture of her hand.

The next step in this process is the mortar-powered coffee mixed with boiling water in the traditional Ethiopian coffee pot ‘Javana’. Sugar is also mixed in the coffee in this pot. Then comes the turn of the environment. But there is also a special tradition here.

Almost all of us know about ‘Virgin Olive Oil’. This means that the first solid oil to be produced after grinding olives before adding any chemical is called virgin olive oil. This idea is also used in serving coffee. ‘Virgin’ coffee is prepared. This Ethiopian virgin coffee is called Abol or the first coffee. This abol is served to the oldest person.

The second and third coffees are also made in the same way which is known as Tona and Baraka respectively. These two are made by adding a little more water to the Habana after serving the first cup. These three types of coffee are served with corn, wheat, or fried barley. Sometimes just before serving, a little salt is added to the prepared coffee.

This traditional practice of serving coffee is a symbol of dignity in Ethiopia, showing hospitality, friendship, and respect to the guests. Ethiopian coffee is much loved by coffee lovers around the world because of its special production process.

Ethiopia currently has at least 10 percent of the space needed to produce this natural coffee. This wild arabica coffee is cultivated in an area of ​​only 2,000 square kilometers of excellent wildlife. This part of Ethiopia is a very small part of the famous ‘Afromanten’ region.

Environment vs. Livelihood

The story of clearing forests and increasing the amount of arable land is as common in our country as it is in Ethiopia, a third-world country in Africa.

The difference is that this coffee production is the main livelihood of the locals in the area and is more than a thousand years old. So on the one hand deforestation and the other hand, the livelihood of the people – which is more important, in which case compromise can be accepted – various organizations and scholars around the world have been spending a lot of time and money on this discussion.

It is to be noted that this process of coffee cultivation has also played a role in the tourism industry of the region. However, the forests are not lagging. But on the one hand, the quality and value of this ‘wild coffee’ are declining due to deforestation as well as semi-natural methods to create the land needed for the cultivation of this coffee. At the same time, the number of local wildlife and birds in the region is declining.

Although only naturally grown forest coffee is called wild coffee. But various reports published at different times show that this wild coffee is produced in Ethiopia in different processes. Of these, only 5 percent are naturally occurring in forests. 10 percent is produced on land approved for coffee production. 50 percent is produced in the garden next to the farmer’s house.

The remaining 35 percent is produced in a ‘semi-natural’ way. This last method produces the largest amount of ‘pure’ wild coffee. The difference between this semi-natural method and the coffee produced in a completely natural way is that in this case the amount of tree shade is much less. The seeds and seedlings used in this method are collected in different ways. Even these saplings are provided to the farmers by the government.

But this method is putting a lot of pressure on the forest and the environment. About 30 percent of the large shade trees, which have not yet fully grown, have been cut down and cultivated.

Although the number of tree species has increased by about 26 percent in this way, the number of shade trees about 15 meters tall is on the verge of extinction. And the method of regenerating these trees is also being stopped for various reasons.

However, apart from coffee production, the forests are also being destroyed due to climate change and the provision of fodder for cattle. A report published in Nature magazine in 2016 states that by the end of this century, climate change has made the soil extra warm and dry, making coffee production in the Bell Mountains no longer possible.

In the case of coffee growing in the wild and natural, the shade of the trees is much higher and the amount of sunshine is much less. And so the place is also quite damp.

The wolves, the main wildlife of the Harena forest, are being further affected along with the trees due to declining forest cover. Also on the list is the African-headed needle. This animal is the only one left in the Bell Mountains. The forest is also home to the world’s largest mountain range. About 6 percent of Ethiopia’s birds live in this forest.

The number of different species of birds is also higher in the shade of trees required for natural products, which, surprisingly, can also be seen in cultivated coffee gardens, but certainly much less in number.

Honey collectors in the region are also being affected by deforestation. This honey is collected from a tree about 21 meters tall. And to increase coffee production, tall and tall trees are being cut down first.

Prevention measures

However, several steps have been taken to prevent further damage. For example, Farm Africa is trying to provide better living and alternative livelihoods to the people living in the lower reaches of the forest.

These inhabitants go to the higher parts of the mountains and graze their cattle for several weeks at a time. According to the organization, about 6 percent of the forest is being destroyed. Efforts are being made to make a better life possible by stopping cattle grazing.

In some cases, naturally grown coffee for export is mixed with cultivated coffee from nearby Dello Mena and then roasted. The locals can easily tell the difference, but no one in the world can tell the difference.

If the world market starts promoting this, more forests will be destroyed to meet the demand for naturally produced coffee.

In response to this concern, a 2007 report in Forest Ecology and Management found that in areas where forests have been cut down for coffee production, the number of small trees and shrubs, including lianas, has dropped by about 50 percent.

Although there is no problem with food security, the virus, which is spread by domestic dogs, is at the root of the extinction of wolves in this forest, which kills 75% of wolves if infected. However, according to the Ethiopian Wolf Reservation Program, the death toll from the virus is much lower now that the wolves’ bodies have developed a kind of immune system on their own. This organization arranges for the vaccination of these dogs. However, the lack of habitat is more responsible for the extinction of this wolf species.

In 2010 the region was included in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. As with other such reserves, separate areas will be set aside for protected forests and cultivation. Reforestation is one of the various schemes of this reserve.

The Harena Forest Wild Coffee Presidium has been playing an active role for several years in accelerating the coffee production process by training coffee growers and inspiring locals to conserve forests.

It also plays a role in discouraging residents from cutting down trees and preventing illegal logging. The company is also involved in the promotion and sale of locally made coffee. It received the Harena Forest Wild Coffee Slow Food Presidia logo in 2012.

Coffee production is the main livelihood of the inhabitants of this region of Ethiopia. So it is not possible to stop this production.

But there is a need to find an alternative so that livelihoods, forests, and wildlife can coexist at the same time.

May be given a certain amount of production. However, in that case, the residents have to make alternative livelihood arrangements.