There are four types of coffee production systems in Ethiopia: forest coffee, semi- forest coffee, garden coffee and plantation coffee. 95% of those coffees, can be considered organic, although not officially certified. Small Cooperatives, and Larger Unions, as well as currently growing commercial farms, can give certifications for the coffee they have produced and are about to export. These systems are mainly classified as such, due to the varying levels of plants associated with coffee, the nature of the tree regeneration and also the human intervention in the production. Coffee grows at various altitudes ranging from 550- 2750m.a.s.l]
Traditionally the Biggest State plantation had been in Bebeka, in the South Western part of Ethiopia.
Government Plantations were established during the defunct military era of Ethiopia, whereby private land was confiscated, and in most cases divided among farmers, or joined to farm large plantations, whose coffee was exported by the Government.
In 2012 these Plantations were auctioned and purchased by one of the World's Richest men, Sheikh Allamoudi (Limu and Bebeka) The last 7 years, since the Establishment of the ECX (the current auction), a lot of private commercial farms have been sprouting, by exporters that are acquiring land so that they can establish Direct Trade with their clients.
The positive aspect of Plantation coffee is that good agronomic practices have been established to ensure higher yield and hence a secured income for the owners.
Improved seedlings have been acquired by the Ministry of Agriculture, proper spacing, manuring and weeding and as well as pruning are being practiced.
Ethiopia is a land of micro holding farmers. The land surrounding the residences of the farmers, is usually cultivated with a variety of cash and food crops, coffee being one of the cash crops. The coffee that is selected and sold from such "gardens" is amounting to almost 50% of the total production of Ethiopia.
Forest coffee is mainly found in the South Eastern and South WEstern highlands of Ethiopia starting from 1000 mtrs to 2270 mtrs. It is a coffee, that grows and regenerates spontaneously, assisted by birds and the civet cat in many cases but also as beans fall into the ground they grow again into trees. Farmers owe NO land below the Forest canopy, and they simply obtain a permit by the Ministry of Agriculture during harvest to collect the cherries of the coffee.
The forest protects the coffee and the coffee protects the forest as someone once told me. Forest coffee biodiversity is of international importance, as it guards the pool of new varieties that can once assist the world.
Bale mountains are the source of such WILD Forest, that grows freely under the HARENNA forest canopy
Semi-Forest Coffee production system is also found in the Southern and SouthWestern parts of the Country. In this occasion. farmers owe the land below the forest, and they select and thin the trees to get adequate light and also enough land for their other crops. Unfortunately till today, trees are simply managed by weeding and shade regulation. No adequate prooning and agricultural practices are applied. Semi forest coffee is abundant in Illubabor, Jimmah, Keffa, Yirgachefe, Bench Maji, West Wollega, Sidamo and Guji. It is thought that 136,000 ha are accounting for this type of production (Paulos and Demil, 2000)