Group of Ethiopian farmers drying out coffee beans

Improving Water Purity in the Sidama Region

With funding from Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee, TechnoServe is developing and implementing coffee waste water solutions in the Sidama region of Ethiopia, to reduce river water contamination.


In Ethiopia’s Sidama coffee region, millions of liters of wastewater and coffee pulp are accidentally discharged into the rivers during coffee processing. The polluted water then becomes source water for communities and wet mills downstream. Since 2012, Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee and TechnoServe have partnered to protect the region’s rivers by implementing sustainable water management practices.


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 it 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 other nearby rivers to implement these solutions. In 2015, participating wet mills processed 13,812 metric tons of coffee cherry and converted coffee pulp into more than 2,400 metric tons of compost. Testing downriver from wet mill sites has shown that the project’s approach prevents pollution by the wet mill during the harvest season, with rivers maintaining their pre-harvest condition.


As of March 2017, TechnoServe has supported 71 wet mills, which no longer discharge wastewater or coffee pulp into rivers. Of these, 33 produced compost or allowed farmers to take the pulp to compost on their farms during the 2016 harvest season. In total, the wet mills processed 40,000 MT of coffee cherry and produced 8,000 MT of compost.

TechnoServe delivered a sustainability standards training package to 15 private wet mills in the 2016 cohort of participants. The training modules included: Sustainability  Standards  Overview;  Occupational  Health  and  Safety;  Environmental Responsibility; and Social Responsibility and Ethics.

Learn more about our environmental sustainability work in this region.