Water Wise Coffee

In Ethiopia’s Sidama coffee region, hundreds of millions of liters of wastewater and coffee pulp are accidentally discharged into the rivers during coffee processing. This polluted water then becomes source water for communities and wet mills downstream. Since 2012, Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee and TechnoServe have partnered on the Water Wise Coffee project to protect the region's rivers. The project works with wet mill owners to implement an innovative water management solution, which includes reducing water usage, separating the coffee pulp from the wastewater, and planting vetiver grass wetlands. The wastewater is then absorbed by the vetiver grass, which is able to tolerate highly polluted water, or evaporates, while the coffee pulp is composted and distributed to farmers as organic fertilizer. The project is working with 70 wet mills along the Kola, Malebo and nearby rivers to implement these solutions. In 2015, participating wet mills processed 13,812 metric tons of coffee cherry and converted coffee pulp into over 2,400 metric tons of compost. Testing downriver from wet mill sites has shown that the Water Wise approach prevents pollution by the wet mill during the harvest season, with rivers maintaining their pre-harvest condition.