In reference to our supplier information, Ethiopian coffee production systems are broadly classified into the following categories:
- Forest (8-10%)
- Semi-forest (30-35%)
- Garden or cottage (50-55%), and
- Plantation (5-6%) coffees.
These are the basis of organic farming, agro-ecological sustainability, and biodiversity conservation of the coffee-based culture in Ethiopia.
Forest Coffee System
This system refers to wild types of coffee grown mainly in the southwestern mountain rainforests of the country. Under this system:
- The forest is covered by heterogenous species of overhead shade trees.
- The coffee types are genetically heterogeneous which offer a wide diversity for selection and breeding.
- Productivity is low due to excessively high competition for resources, especially light.
- Natural regeneration is assisted mainly by wild animals, and minimal human interference.
Semi-forest Coffee System
This system is believed to be evolved from the forest coffee system. It is also found in the southwestern parts of the country, often under relatively disturbed light forests located near main roads and rural towns or near farmer’s villages. Slashing for weeds, shade regulation, and infilling with self-sown seedlings are considered as normal cultural practices under this system. About 40% of the national production and large portion of marketable products come from the forest and semi-forest production systems.
Garden Coffee System
In this system, coffee is established by the planting of raised seedings of local landrace, as well as inter-planting with other annual and perennial crops. It is well managed system with regard to weed control and application of organic fertilizers. Light to medium shade levels are often maintained. Old and less productive trees are usually pruned/stumped. The Garden Coffee System is more productive than the systems listed above.
Plantation Coffee System
Under the plantation coffee system, highly intensified plantations owned by large state and private farms are observed. Such farms practice pruning, organic mulching and fertilizing, integrated weed and pest management as well as, well-regulated shade and plant density management are used.
In the first three systems, no input from outside the system is applied. These production systems basic divergence from systems found elsewhere in the coffee-growing world. Above all they are controlled by ecological conservation principles; hence, they embrace the basic characteristic of agro-ecological sustainability. As a consequence, Ethiopian coffee deserves the reputation of being natural and organic.