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EWIRE

Ethiopian Coffee Farmers Lead the Way with First Rainforest Alliance Certification in Africa

New York, New York, Oct. 31 - /EWire/ -- A group of 678 coffee farmers in Ethiopia, known as the "the birthplace of coffee," collectively became the first in Africa to obtain Rainforest Alliance sustainability certification for meeting Rainforest Alliance's strict set of environmental and social standards, including for ecosystem and wildlife conservation, agrochemical reduction, better worker housing, healthcare and education and many other criteria. The farmers were certified as a group under the administration of ASK International Trading, PLC and Jihad Mohammed, owner of a washing and buying station in Haro, in Ethiopia's Manna province. They cultivate the coffee, Ethiopia's primary agricultural export crop, together with subsistence crops like avocado, banana and beans, in gardens covering 4,500 acres. This new certification is the first awarded by the Rainforest Alliance to a coffee farm outside Latin America, where the organization works in 11 countries on more than 6,500 farms. According to Ethiopian coffee exporter Suffian Mahdi, it is a harbinger of interest among African coffee growers, many of whom have noted the sustainability certification phenomenon in Latin America, and the advantages it confers in competitive global markets. "Farmers always do better activities on their farms when they feel that they have obtained economic benefits," said Mahdi, who represents the farmers and worked with them to achieve certification. "There is no doubt sustainable agricultural practices will prevail, and farmers will strive to protect their environment." "One obstacle had been the perception that the certification process is too complex and too expensive to widely use everywhere," Mahdi said. But he said he was now certain certification's social and environmental benefits would help farmers stick with it, and allow them to grow a premium product and stay competitive. Indeed, it took the farmers about a year of making improvements, with the help of Rainforest Alliance advisors, local supporters such as Mahdi and the Belgian-based sustainable coffee trading house Efico, to obtain certification. But now that has been achieved, said Patrick F. Installe, managing director of Efico, it will help empower the community while fighting environmental degradation. The farmers sold their first batch of certified coffee, totaling nearly 1.5 million pounds, to global giant Kraft earlier this year. They planned on using the profits they made to buy work boots, tools and animals to haul their crops, Mahdi said. Future profits will be invested in additional water wells and improvements in clinics and schools. Jonathan Atwood, director, commodity sustainability programs, of Kraft Foods, said Kraft would use the beans in its mainstream coffee brands in Europe and North America which have Rainforest Alliance CertifiedTM content, including Kraft's Yuban brand, now available in supermarkets across the United States. "Supporting sustainable certification is a great way to help Ethiopia's coffee farmers by connecting them to the growing, global demand for high-quality, sustainably produced beans and to use that connection to improve their and their families' lives while protecting Ethiopia's environment," Atwood said. Ethiopia is an important producer of high-quality coffee. Arabica beans are cultivated throughout the country, mostly under native rainforest trees. Some 95% of the Ethiopian coffee production - averaging 4 million 132 pound bags -- is produced by small farms. Native coffee also grows wild in the rapidly declining natural forests in the western part of the state, where it still has the potential to be sustainably harvested. The Rainforest Alliance is working with Ethiopian farmers to fight deforestation and conserve native plants and habitat. The mission of the Rainforest Alliance is to protect ecosystems and the people and wildlife that depend on them by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior. To learn more, visit http://www.rainforest-alliance.org Contact Info: Gretchen Ruethling Tel : 646-452-1939 E-mail : gruethling@ra.org Website : Rainforest Alliance

For more information:

Gretchen Ruethling Tel : 646-452-1939 E-mail : gruethling@ra.org

www.ra.org

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