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Wild coffee production in Ethiopia: the role of coffee certification for forest conservation

The Ethiopian rainforests are internationally renowned for their high biodiversity and their wild coffee (Coffea arabica) populations, but are severely threatened by deforestation. The remaining rainforests are used for wild coffee production. This study quantifies wild coffee yields from local management systems without artificial inputs, and analyses the impact of wild coffee management on the natural forest vegetation. Subsequently, the role of coffee certification for forest conservation is evaluated. The results show that wild coffee yields from undisturbed forest with low management intensity are extremely small. Intensive management in semi-forest coffee systems removes 30 % of the canopy trees and most undergrowth vegetation. This stimulates wild coffee growth and almost triples coffee yields, while jeopardizing forest biodiversity. Premium prices for wild coffee through certification are seen as one possibility to halt the deforestation process by adding economic value to the natural coffee forests. Particular certification criteria for wild coffee, however, do not exist yet. This study reviews currently present coffee certification schemes under, e.g., Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), Rainforest Alliance and Utz Kapeh, and explores to what extent they can promote sustainable use and conservation of the Ethiopian coffee forests.

Christine B. Schmitt, Ulrike Grote
Berlin Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change
17-18 / 11/ 2008
Berlin, Germany