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REVEALING THE COFFEE COMMUNITY: LIVELIHOODS OF FARMERS AND THE LOCAL ECONOMY IN SOUTHERN ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 1209-04]
London’s first coffee house opened in 1652 and, twenty years later, France followed suit. From this time on, coffee rapidly became a worldwide commodity. Since coffee is regarded as an almost-daily necessity in many countries or regions (typically in what we call developed countries), the total production is increasing annually. Ethiopia is known as a prominent coffee exporter worldwide; at the same time, the domestic market is also remarkably large and accounts for approximately half of the gross volume produced within the country. To pursue greater efficiency and transparency at each stage in the process of trading coffee, both for exports and for domestic use, a commodity exchange known as the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) was introduced in 2008. It is believed that the distribution system managed by the ECX benefits those who are economically and geographically marginalised. However, there are some doubts about its efficiency and benefits; therefore, it is necessary to examine how the ECX improves farmers’ and traders’ standard of living in rural areas. This research clarifies the livelihoods of people, mainly coffee farmers in Kaffa, the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) in Ethiopia. This area is a prominent coffee producing region which provides one of the best possible conditions for cultivation such as temperature and altitude and is also known as the birthplace of coffee. Using the participant observation method, we studied ethnological and indigenous knowledge related to coffee production, as well as the actual status of coffee farmers, including their culture, food, traditions, and local economy. Besides, this research examines how the ECX functions in the local producing areas. The livelihood of coffee-related people in the area, such as suppliers (acrabis in Amharic) and collectors (sebasabis in Amharic), are also focused on since they play a fundamental role in the distribution system in rural areas. Ultimately, this research will contribute towards further study which aims to clarify the relationship between capitalist production and poverty, along with social, economic, cultural, and political factors concerning coffee production in the studied area.