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Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee.  Coffee arabica originates in and still grows wild in Ethiopia in areas which are included in the Eastern Afromontane Biodiversity hotspot. In Ethiopia, only about 2000 sq km of high-quality forest with wild arabica coffee remains. However coffee is typically grown in Ethiopia, and so we generally feel good about enjoying Ethiopian coffee from an ecological point of view. Technically, coffee is wild if it grows and reproduces or regenerates on its own within natural habitats.

Forest coffee  called “wild” coffee. Here, coffee is harvested from trees growing in the forest, with virtually no management of the surrounding forest or vegetation, except perhaps some removal of undergrowth to facilitate access to the coffee trees

Semi-forest coffee. Most “forest coffee” is probably really in this category, termed semi-forest coffee. Here, the forest is altered and managed, often quite substantially.  The canopy is thinned once to several times a year to allow more light to reach the coffee and increase yields. Trees with open, wide-spreading canopies are favored since fewer trees are needed to provide the preferred amount of shade. Undergrowth, competing shrubs, and emerging seedlings of other plants are removed to make harvesting easier and to make room for more coffee. The coffee grows wild, but is also supplemented by shrubs transplanted from elsewhere.

Increasingly, forest coffee is being managed as semi-forest coffee, and semi-forest coffee is being managed and harvested with increasing intensity as coffee prices rise. The increasing management intensity has profound impacts on the forest and biodiversity. This diversity includes the genetic resources of wild races of Coffee arabica, as the practice of swapping and transplanting coffee, and any interbreeding, erodes the integrity of wild genotypes.

Coffee spreads throughout Ethiopia: With ideal growing conditions in the East, South and Western areas of the country. Ethiopia to continue providing the world with wonderful Arabica coffee.  It is natural that Ethiopia, the home of coffee, should illustrate its success.  Within Ethiopia, there are three main growing regions – Harrar, Ghimbi and Sidamo (also known as Yirgacheffe). Almost all coffee in Ethiopia is cultivated on small farms with the exception of some larger, government run estates. Ethiopian coffees are mostly grown under shade and with little to no use of chemicals.

Over 400, 000 hectares of land to the West, South and East of Addis Ababa above 3600 feet are planted with Arabica coffee.  About 80% of Ethiopia’s exports are natural (sundried) Arabica coffees, the rest is washed.  The only coffee plantations in Ethiopia exist in Limu, Bebeka and Teppi.  All other coffee (over 95%) is grown by small garden farmers or wild in forests.  Farmers inter-crop with other product in order to ensure their coffee is shade grown, and to provide them with financial security if coffee prices are low.

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