Anybody who has visited the town of Yirgacheffe (Gedeo Zone) this year will have noticed the sad condition of the once well-respected Mahlet Hotel

By Michael McIntyre (Daily Coffee News) |

The coffee community in Ethiopia’s Gedeo Zone has experienced some significant setbacks this year. More than 40 washing stations, dry mills and coffee storehouses were destroyed or damaged, crippling their ability to process coffee. Early in the harvest season, when the first cherries were beginning to arrive at washing stations, many Gedeo people participated in an uprising against “foreign”-owned enterprises.

In total, more than 30 washing stations sustained damage that made them irreparable for the washed coffee season, while four processors permanently abandoned their coffee businesses. In addition to the damages to coffee enterprises, many other non-coffee businesses were afflicted with broken windows and burned out storefronts. Even worse, several lives were lost in these demonstrations.

Let us be perfectly clear about one important detail: When identifying “foreign,” we are not referring to foreign national investments. We are referring to different tribal affiliations. We who are not Habesha have only an outsider’s perspective to the numerous cultural dynamics within Ethiopia. We tend to view this birthplace of coffee as representing whole, unified people.

However, we must continue to learn that within this national Abyssinian identity, there exist 82 (some say 84) distinct tribal groups, with distinct cultural traditions and languages. While Amharic unifies the nation under one language, only an estimated 25 percent of the Ethiopian population speaks it. There can be a great deal of intercultural/intertribal tension. Unfortunately, this tension sometimes erupts into physical violence.

Anybody who has visited the town of Yirgacheffe this year will have noticed the sad condition of the once well-respected Mahlet Hotel, where many coffee buyers stay every year during sourcing season.

Continue reading this story at Daily Coffee News
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