Hotspot for Biodiversity
Unique Coffee Forests full of Life
Hotspot for biodiversity in Ethiopia and worldwide
Around 95 percent of Ethiopia’s remaining forests are centred in two regions. One of these is the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State (SNNPRS) province. Within this province is the Kafa Zone, which still boasts large, overlapping areas of mountainous afromontane cloud forest. The region is one of the 34 “Biodiversity Hotspots” worldwide (Eastern Afromontane) and is therefore of global significance for conservation.
The plateau, which was formerly densely forested, presents primeval forests, bamboo thickets and wetlands. Around 106 woody plant species belonging to 74 genera and 38 families are recorded. Dominant species are Coffea arabica, Pouteria adolfi-friedercii, Berasama abyssinica, Schefflera abyssinica, Trilepsium madagascariense and Polyscias fulva.
One hundred bird species have been recorded in the area; 15 of the bird species are reported to comprise the “Highland Biome Species”, thus accounting for 31 percent of the Restricted Highland Biome Assemblages in Ethiopia. At least 48 mammalian species, representing 14 families are estimated to be present in the zone.
With its three major rivers: Gojeb, Dinchia and Woshi, the forest area is an important fresh water reservoir for the entire region. However the size of the forest has dramatically reduced; the forest is now dispersed to include settlement areas, grazing and agricultural land. Areas of mostly undisturbed forest have been identified as untouchable core zones.
Forest Distribution in Kafa Biosphere Reserve
The southwest-Ethiopian afromontane forests are considered to be an invaluable genetic resource: These forest's undergrowth provides the natural home of the Arabica-coffee plant (Coffea arabica) and are the centre and origin of its extraordinarily valuable genetic diversity. The wild growing coffee has an estimated value of as much as 1.4 billion US Dollars. In spite of this value and other important ecosystem benefits generated by the forest, and which help the people in the region subsist, the cloud forests are greatly endangered, especially by conversion for agrarian purposes and forest degradation (commercial wood use and also as firewood). According to FAO statistics around 43 percent of the forest area in the Kafa Zone was lost between 1988 and 2008.
More information about forest loss in Kafa
5000 variations of wild coffee
Around 90 percent of the coffee drunk worldwide is Arabica coffee. Scientists estimate that in Kafa centuries of mostly undisturbed evolution have produced around 5,000 varieties of coffee. Coffee plants are a part of the delicately balanced forest ecosystem in Kafa and are used by the local inhabitants.
The coffee is picked both for personal use and for sale at local markets. A typical farmer still lives on what is grown in his fields and harvests the wild-growing coffee fruit and a variety of commercially-valuable spices and honey from wild bees for his own use and sale at local markets. Nowadays, over 6,500 farmers have formed cooperatives through which they can supply more coffee at a consistently high quality than they could as individual farmers. Now the coffee from the cooperatives is even exported internationally.
Ethiopia is the only coffee-producing country in Africa with a traditional coffee-drinking culture. At least three times a day, women perform a ritual, the daily ’coffee ceremony’, when green coffee beans are freshly roasted, crushed and brewed to be served to family and guests sitting together to discuss events and share stories. After decades of research, Kafa’s profile as the ‘birthplace’ of Arabica coffee was raised recently when the Ethiopian government decided to establish the National Coffee Museum in Bonga, the Zone’s capital.