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Ethiopia's Coffee Farmers Are 'On The Front Lines Of Climate Change'

20:00 EDT 20 Jun 2017 | Meridian Institute

The effects of climate change are taking a toll on Ethiopia’s ability to farm coffee. Coffee arabica originated in this country and, today, it is the largest African producer of Arabica coffee. But a new study is reporting that Ethiopia could lose from 39 to 59 percent of its current coffee-growing areas to climate change by the end of the century. Aaron Davis, a scientist at the United Kingdom-based Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and one of the study’s authors, says coffee farmers in Ethiopia are “on the front lines of climate change.” The team used satellite imagery and climate models to assess which parts of the country would be suitable for growing coffee in the coming decades. Coffee farmers, could, the researchers say, adapt by moving their plantations to newer, more suitable regions in the coming decades. In fact, the country’s coffee-growing areas could expand if farmers moved to higher altitudes and adopted mitigation strategies such as irrigating and mulching. But, says Davis, doing so is harder than it sounds. "It looks easy in the paper, just move everything upslope, to higher ground," he says. "But in reality, it's going to take a lot of coordination, a lot of effort and a lot of resources to do that." And most coffee farmers don’t have those resources. It may be better for some farmers to switch to other crops. Many Ethiopian farmers have already done that, switching to khat, a plant whose leaves are used as a recreational drug. Others have switched to maize, but replacing coffee trees with maize requires clearing the trees, leading to deforestation and soil erosion. The key, says Davis, could be shifting coffee plantations to currently deforested areas that could become more favorable to coffee in the coming decades. That way, he says, such areas could see an increase in forest cover and provide a source of livelihood to local farmers.

Original Article: Ethiopia's Coffee Farmers Are 'On The Front Lines Of Climate Change'

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