Though coffee is one of the top export earners, nowadays many people have been raising doubts about whether coffee would remain to be the major source of the country’s foreign earnings for the coming two or three decades taking into account the ever worsening climate change impacts on the crop or not.
Jimma University Instructor and Institute of International Coffee Research Local Coordinator Gezahegn Berech says: ” Our institute has conducted a six-year long studies on coffee berry diseases in relation to climate variability. According to the studies, due to the global climate change, coffee has become highly vulnerable to such diseases which critically hamper its productivity.”
To avert the situation, the institute together with the community living in the coffee growing areas has been staging awareness creation campaigns towards the impacts of climate change on coffee.
For example, sample seeds taken from the area were hybridized to be drought tolerant. About 6,000 of such coffee seedlings had been distributed to the farmers and planted during the last rainy season, he adds.
By the same token , with a view to creating alternative living options to farmers, training was offered to farmers to engage in bee farming through modern hives so that, they will be resilient for drought, he notes.
For the Research and Partnership on Coffee and the Ecosystem Director Dr. Sunday Ekesi, the increased temperatures such as early and late rains and extreme weather events reduce coffee production and cause rapid flow of water from high to the lower areas exacerbating erosion.
Furthermore, the adverse temperature worsens the impact of insect pests on coffee production and farmers’ livelihoods.
As to him, for the last 50 years, coffee production has been constantly declining in the highland areas of Ethiopia and other countries as well.
Outlining factors for the decline, Dr. Sunday mentions climate variability, high production costs, particularly costs of fertilizers, pesticides and the like.
He also indicates that the land gradient variation has its own impact on the emergence of pests.
To curb the situation, Dr. Sunday says an immediate action has to be taken to ensure sustainable coffee production in the areas.
In addition, solution forwarded as adaptation mechanism such as shifting from utilizing chemical fertilizer to bio fertilizer, practicing agro-forestry to reduce vulnerability and cultural practice such as terracing can be taken as a way out.
Unlike other countries, Ethiopia’s coffee planting depends on the availability forest and the wild coffee itself survives under the shelter of big trees, however, due to deforestation, coffee growing in the south western part of the country is critically threatened. The expansion of modern extensive farming also attributed to the decrease of coffee planting farm hence, unless remedial action takes place the production will be dwindle.
For his part, Jimma University’s Coffee Researcher Tollossa Garedew says deforestation apart from affecting the survival of coffee plant, it will degrade land and make the place inhabitable for plants and the ecosystem.
He, therefore, says afforestation through planting indigenous trees is vital to reverse the situation.
He also notes that coffee is not only threatened by diseases but also the oldness of the plant. This is because it reduces the productivity; hence, renewing the plant through cutting the old stem is essential.
According to Tollessa, some new pests are tolerant of conventional pesticides as the result, destroy pest tolerant seedlings. This in turn has been a critical challenge to coffee growers. On the other hand, herbs come through exogenous plants further aggravate the situation and forced researchers to devote their energy for producing new hybrid coffee.
For Gezahegn, the Ethiopian Coffee which is Arabica type is sensitive to climate variation. It is unfortunate that currently the starting and ending of rain season is changing.
Torrential raining with excessive water pose flood and the shortage of rain affect the healthy production hence, employing viable adaptation mechanism at the grass root level must be strengthened.
As to him, coffee in addition to its economic value, it has cultural and social values such as social gathering and ceremony that could maintain these unique assets. Paying attention for the productivity of coffee is necessary and the ongoing research activities should be continued in an intensified manner.
By: Abebe Wolde Giogis
Copyright The Ethiopian Herald. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).