These forests form a sort of natural seed bank – a genetic resource on which experts put a value of up to 1.5 billion dollars. In the past local smallholders earned nothing at all from preserving the arabica gene pool.

The PPP project’s most important goal was to find an international market for the coffee that grows wild in the undergrowth. An appropriately high price for this speciality would make it more attractive for the farmers to conserve the forest than to convert it into ploughland.

The project has developed an impressive momentum of its own. When the farmers realised that a good price could be obtained for the product that they themselves valued highly, some of the cooperatives that were founded during the period of Ethiopian socialism, but had never really got going, awoke from their years of slumber. On their own initiative and with the support of local government they set up a quality control system, provided advice to the smallholders and organised central collecting points.

With the support of the German partners, the cooperatives – of which there are now 26, involving more than 6,000 farmers – set up an umbrella organisation, the Farmers Union. The Union has been granted its own export licence and can ship the wild coffee from Kafa to the port of Djibouti, from where it can be exported, without needing to employ middlemen.

Since the beginning, the quantity of high-quality, sustainably harvested wild coffee has risen year by year. The Farmers Union has succeeded in extending the market to other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, so that to date around 600 tonnes of wild coffee have been sold.