The Ethiopian government is now encouraging farmers to grow coffee at higher elevations – up to 3,200 meters above sea level, about 1,000 meters above the norm.

HAMBELA, Ethiopia (eNCA)―Few countries take coffee as seriously as Ethiopia – and that’s not only because it prides itself as being the source of the prized Arabica bean.

But rising temperatures and worsening drought linked to climate change are now hitting production – and fixing that may require moving many Ethiopian coffee fields uphill, experts say.

Aside from its cultural value, coffee is Ethiopia’s single largest source of export revenue, worth more than $860-million in the 2016-2017 production year.

But coffee-growing areas in eastern Ethiopia have seen the average temperature climb 1.3 degrees Celsius over the past three decades, according to the Environment, Climate Change and Coffee Forest Forum (ECCCFF), an Ethiopian non-governmental organization.

That has caused stronger drought and – given that coffee is a crop sensitive to both moisture and temperature – a worsening of diseases that afflict coffee berries.

As a result, thousands of hectares of coffee plants are being lost each year in traditional growing areas, which is raising fears about the future of Ethiopia’s coffee production.

The government is now encouraging farmers to grow coffee at higher elevations – up to 3,200 meters above sea level, about 1,000 meters above the norm.

That could help mitigate some of the climate change pressures Ethiopia faces, said Birhanu Tsegaye, who heads extension services for coffee, tea and spices for the Ethiopia Coffee and Tea Development Marketing Authority (ECTDMA), a government body tasked with overseeing the sector.

As temperatures rise, “even areas not (formerly) suitable for coffee growing have become suitable, presenting an opportunity for the country to cope with climate change,” he said.

Pressures from warming conditions have been noticed in other parts of the country too.

Continue reading this story at eNCA
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