In the Sidama zone of Ethiopia, an estimated 200,000 families depend on coffee production for their primary source of income. Moreover, coffee production draws in 30% of Ethiopia’s annual export earnings.
Each year, large quantities of water are used for “wet milling,” a process that converts the raw harvested cherries into the green coffee beans that are exported. More than 300 of Sidama wet mills use traditional disc pulpers, which use water to remove coffee cherry skins. The beans are then fermented in large water tanks, washed and then separated through water channels.
Problematically, “wet milling,” produces pollution and harms the local water supply.
Water treatment systems are not up to par and large amounts of waste waters seep back into the rivers. Moreover, Sidama’s wet mills can’t access water from the springs because of the topography.
What’s the solution?
Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee and its Brown Gold brand, TechnoServe is working with wet mill operators to plant the vetiver grass wetlands– a cheap, sustainable approach to water treatment.
The deep roots of vetiver grass suck up water, and slow down the flow and infiltration into the soil. Any remaining effluent is stored in a pond at the bottom of the wetland to evaporate.
TechnoServe plans to work with 17 wet mills in Sidama over the course of the next 3 years. TechnoServe workers will provide technical advice, while the wet mill owners will pay the construction of the wetlands.
TechnoServe has already installed 40 similar wetlands at wet mills throughout East Africa that were specifically adapted for each region.
The new partnership with Mother Parkers is unique as it is the first time every wet mill along one river, the Kolla river, were targeted in order to improve the whole watershed.
– Kasey Beduhn
Source: Business Fights Poverty, Water Wise Coffee: Brown Gold
Photo: Nordic Approach