Transforming Harvest Season in Ethiopia

April 12, 2016

An innovative approach to coffee production in the Sidama region is helping smallholder farmers improve their livelihoods while setting an example of environmental sustainability.

April is Earth Month, an opportunity to honor our planet and affirm environmental commitments. Given TechnoServe’s work with smallholder farmers, who are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change and environmental degradation, we are continually reminded of the importance of sustainable farming.

During harvest period, I didn’t even want to wash my school uniform in the river because it smelled like rotten coffee pulp, and I didn’t want to be ashamed at school.


Throughout Ethiopia's Sidama region, thousands of farmers rely on coffee farming as their primary source of income. Because of this, the region has the highest concentration of wet mills in Africa, but many of these mills were built with older technology, which can send large amounts of wastewater and decaying coffee pulp into the local water supply. In 2012 TechnoServe and Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee launched the Water Wise Coffee initiative in the Sidama region of Ethiopia, which helps these wet mills implement a low-cost, sustainable solution to wastewater management.

For Ikite Thomas, who lives in the coffee-farming village of Sheicha, pollution from the wet mills was affecting her studies. The 16-year-old was often tasked with fetching water in the morning for her family, and during harvest season this meant she had to wake up very early to get to the river before the wet mills started running and polluting the water. Often this chore made the ambitous and diligent student – who hopes to become a doctor – late for class. 

“During harvest period, I didn’t even want to wash my school uniform in the river because it smelled like rotten coffee pulp, and I didn’t want to be ashamed at school,” she said.

Find out how Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee and Marley Coffee are supporting the Water Wise project in honor of Earth Month.

Once Water Wise began to work with the local wet mills, Ikite noticed that the river ran clean again, even when the mills were processing coffee. She no longer had to make the early morning trips to fetch water for her family, allowing her to arrive to school on time and alert. “More than anything I am happy that I don’t have to come early in the morning during harvest season – and no longer be late for school,” she said.

Water Wise has helped 49 wet mills in the region implement the sustainable solution. Together with our supporters, we can help convert even more wet mills, enhancing the water quality for families, like Ikite's, who depend on the river, and promoting a sustainable coffee industry.

Make a donation today and help smallholder coffee farmers and other enterprising individuals in the development world improve their livelihoods with TechnoServe’s support.


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