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Resilience potential of the Ethiopian coffee sector under climate change


Coffee farming provides livelihoods for around 15 million farmers in Ethiopia and generates a quarter of the country's export earnings. Against a backdrop of rapidly increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall, there is an urgent need to understand the influence of climate change on coffee production. Using a modelling approach in combination with remote sensing, supported by rigorous ground-truthing, we project changes in suitability for coffee farming under various climate change scenarios, specifically by assessing the exposure of coffee farming to future climatic shifts. We show that 39–59% of the current growing area could experience climatic changes that are large enough to render them unsuitable for coffee farming, in the absence of significant interventions or major influencing factors. Conversely, relocation of coffee areas, in combination with forest conservation or re-establishment, could see at least a fourfold (>400%) increase in suitable coffee farming area. We identify key coffee-growing areas that are susceptible to climate change, as well as those that are climatically resilient.

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Figure 1: The main coffee growing zones and areas of Ethiopia.
Figure 2: Future projections for coffee suitability under Full Migration (A) and emission scenario A1B.
Figure 3: Future projections for coffee suitability under the No Migration scenario (D) and emission scenario A1B.
Figure 4: Future projections for coffee suitability under the scenarios of Full Migration (A) and No Migration (D) across emission scenarios A1B and A2.
Figure 5: Availability of suitable coffee niche in km2 for migration scenarios of Full Migration (A) and No Migration (D).
Figure 6: Histogram and profile for elevation shifts.
Figure 7: Projections for coffee suitability 2070–2099 (emission scenario A1B) for scenarios Full Migration (A) and No Migration (D), with main coffee areas (black lines; see Fig. 1) and protected area boundaries53 (red lines).


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This study was conducted for the project Building a Climate Resilient Coffee Economy for Ethiopia, within the Strategic Climate Institutions Programme (SCIP) Fund, financed by the governments of the UK (DFID), Denmark and Norway. We are grateful to in-country project partners (Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute, National Meteorology Agency, Ministry of Environment and Forest, Ministry of Agriculture, Addis Ababa University and the Oromia Coffee Farmers' Cooperative Union (OCFCU)), fund managers KPMG (Ethiopia), Department for International Development (DFiD, Ethiopia) and the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX). We thank: those individuals that assisted with fieldwork, including D. Chomen (OCFCU), R. O'Sullivan (RBG, Kew) and E. Sage (Speciality Coffee Association of America); C. Schmitt (University of Freiburg) for the use of coffee plot study data; D. Georges (LECA, CNRS) for helping with issues in R and the Biomod2 package; A. Cooper (RBG Kew) for providing assistance with image processing in ENVI; and A. Moat, S. Bachman (RBG Kew), R. Fields and D. Boyd (University of Nottingham) for reviewing earlier versions of this contribution. We also acknowledge the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison and the WCRP's Working Group on Coupled Modelling for their roles in making available the WCRP CMIP3 and CMIP5 multi-model dataset. Support of these datasets is provided by the Office of Science, US Department of Energy. We gratefully acknowledge coffee farmers and coffee farming communities across Ethiopia for their participation in the SCIP project, and especially for their hospitality and assistance during field work.

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J.M. and A.P.D. conceived and led the study; A.P.D. and J.M. led the project; all authors collected data; J.M., A.P.D., J.W., S.B. and T.W. analysed and processed the data. J.M. and A.P.D. wrote the paper with contributions from all authors.

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Correspondence to Justin Moat or Aaron P. Davis.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Supplementary Figures 1–17, Supplementary Notes, Supplementary Tables 1–4, Supplementary References. (PDF 2100 kb)

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Moat, J., Williams, J., Baena, S. et al. Resilience potential of the Ethiopian coffee sector under climate change. Nature Plants 3, 17081 (2017).

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