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    Ethiopia is a landlocked country situated in the Horn of Africa. It shares frontiers with Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the northeast, Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, and Sudan to the west. Ethiopia covers an area of 1,133,380 km2 measuring about 1,200 km from north to south and approximately 1,600 km from east to west. Although the entire country lies within the tropics, only the lowlands have a hot climate. In the highlands, however, the proximity of the equator is counterbalanced by the elevation of the land, resulting in temperate conditions.

    Agricultural sector

    Agriculture is the main economic activity in Ethiopia, employing more than three quarters of the country's workforce. Half of this is subsistence level farming. State farms are responsible for much of the cash crop production (IFOAM 2003). Coffee is the most important crop, accounting for nearly two thirds of exports. Sesame, animal hides, oilseeds and cotton make a significant contribution, as well. The main staples are cattle meat, roots and tubers, milk, pimento, maize, cereals and sorghum (FAO, 14.07.2006). Ethiopia is also recognised as one of the centres of agricultural biodiversity, particularly for unexploited varieties of coffee, sorghum, chickpeas, wheat, barley and several other grains (IFOAM 2003).

    Overview of organic farming

    Certified organic agriculture has been nonexistent in Ethiopia only a few years ago. However, the international coffee price crisis, which has seen prices at a 35-year low around the world, is creating severe hardships for conventional coffee farmers. Organic coffee planting as a measure of product differentiation holds a possible way out of the crisis: the international trade in organic products is an expanding niche market that Ethiopia is geographically well situated to exploit. Only very recently, some producers started successfully to tap the potential that organic production offers in this market. Growth prospects are bright due to the fact that estimated 80 % of the Ethiopian coffee produced is de facto organic without being certified as such (IFOAM 2003).

    Key organic products

    In Ethiopia, green coffee is the prevailing export commodity. This applies for organic produce even more strictly than for conventional agriculture. Nonetheless, there have been various small initiatives promoting organic farming in other sectors, not only to build up export capacities but also to ensure food security and soil conservation (IFOAM 2003). These new crop varieties include culinary spices and herbs as well as bananas, plantains and potatoes.

    The network

    An Ethiopian organisation addressing the promotion of organic agriculture in particular does not exist yet. However, Agri Service Ethiopia (ASE), an indigenous NGO mainly targeting rural poverty reduction, is a member of IFOAM. Its strategic objectives are not only to improve food security and to facilitate access to basic social services but also to ensure sustainable management of the environment. In this context, the organisation has been executing different programs that de facto promote the use of organic production methods.

    Ethiopia still lacks local certification capacities. The establishment of such could make a valuable contribution to a favourable development of the organic sector.

    Agri Service Ethiopia (ASE)
    Coordinator: Hailemariam Heilemeskel
    P.O. Box 2460
    Addis Abeba, Ethiopia
    Tel.: +251-11-4651212
    Fax: +251-11-4654088
    E-Mail: ase@telecom.net.et
    Website: www.agriserviceethiopia.org 

    External Support

    The Ethiopia organic agriculture sector has been receiving support from the following external organisations amongst others:

    Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
    Global Environment Facility (GEF)
    International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
    International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM)
    International Trade Centre (ITC) 


    - IFOAM (2003): Organic and Like-Minded Movements in Africa. International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), Bonn, pp.102-108.

    - FAO, 14.07.2006: Key Statistics of Food and Agriculture External Trade. Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Statistics Division. URL: www.fao.org/es/ess/toptrade/trade.asp?dir=exp&country=3&ryear=2004 and www.fao.org/es/ess/top/country.html?lang=en 

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