INA in Ethiopia: Pilot Project ISASE - Innovations for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains in Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, INA has been focusing on beeswax as a previously neglected raw material since the summer of 2019. In the region of the Woreda Nono Sale, coffee is cultivated in the first place, and many of the small farming families run beekeeping in parallel, some of them also grow spices. The honey is used, the wax was previously often not recycled. However, beeswax in organic quality is a popular raw material on the world market.


Through the open and committed cooperation of relevant wax companies and coffee companies in the INA now new sales markets are to be created. The smallholder families can thus generate their income from the sale of various raw materials. Measures to professionalise their activities in honey, beeswax and spices will help to close the income gap to a living income. This includes the adaptation of production and processing steps to the requirements of the international market as a prerequisite for the development of export capacities, especially in the quality segment of coffee and beeswax.


The goal of the INA project is to build a sustainable growing region at the Woreda Nono Sale level in the Oromia region. The project focuses on coffee, beeswax, honey, spices. In addition, the traceability of these raw materials with digital solutions is to be improved.


Traceability increases farmers' income and protects forests in Ethiopia

An interdisciplinary team of the Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains and Standards (NAS) Programme enables higher incomes, forest protection and the international marketing of coffee and beeswax in Ethiopia. To this end, it has set up a digital traceability system with block-chain technology, which is linked to a global marketplace for speciality coffees. Combined with analogous measures such as training to improve quality, it aims to develop a sustainable cultivation region and secure the livelihoods of the local population.



Agriculture in Nono Sale:


The simple clay walls of the office of the cooperative "Dire Gudinaa" are covered over and over with large-format, hand-written goal achievement plans: budgets, indicators for forest protection measures, expected coffee harvests. Register books are piled up in the corner of the room. The books contain detailed information on coffee transactions, incoming and outgoing goods and the members of the cooperative. Right next door in the warehouse made of corrugated iron, jute bags with dried coffee cherries are piled up. They are waiting to be transported to Metu to the dry mill of "Sorgaba Union", of which the cooperative is a member. No sign of digitalization. Here, everything is still working in an analogue way.


We are in Nono Sale, a Woreda (district) in the southwest of Ethiopia in the Oromia region. Over 80 percent of Nono Sale's area is forested, mostly with primary forest. The approximately 5,100 farming households derive most of their income from forest beekeeping and the sale of wild coffee. The highlands of Ethiopia are considered the region of origin of Arabica coffee, which thrives here as a wild plant under the shade of tropical giant trees. The extraction of wood and the planting of further coffee trees are subject to the strict requirements of a forest management system designed to protect the forest stand. However, there is a lack of resources and levers to efficiently enforce these requirements.


The coffee harvested in the forest is mainly traded in bulk on the Ethiopian commodity exchange. Farmers earn very low prices and can live on it more poorly than they could possibly live on. To improve their income situation, many farmers are increasing the number of coffee trees. To do this, they need more sunlight and have to thin the canopy of the forest. This leads to an increasing pressure for the forest.




A sustainable cultivation region trough digitalization:


The Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains and Standards (NAS) Programme has launched an ambitious project under the umbrella of the ISASE (Innovations for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains in Ethiopia) pilot project to tackle several of the challenges on the ground with the help of digital solutions. In cooperation with the district administration, other local actors and the GIZ Biodiversity and Forestry Programme (BFP), the programme is developing a "Sustainable Cultivation Region" in Nono Sale. To this end, all actors agree in a roadmap to protect the district's natural resources, to generate a living income for the population and to monitor progress.


One of the measures of this plan is to market local coffee as speciality coffee in order to achieve significantly higher prices than before. In addition, further income potential is to be exploited by exporting the high-quality beeswax, which is still considered a waste product. Analogue training measures, for example on improved processing of the harvest, serve to increase the quality of the coffee. In addition, a digitally supported traceability system is used, in which all interfaces along the supply chain are recorded: Rural households, the cooperatives and the Union each receive a digital ID. Every transaction along the supply chain, such as the delivery of coffee and wax to the cooperative, the onward transport of the harvest and its arrival at the Union are now digitally recorded and stored on a block chain to prevent forgery. The exact origin, the paid prices and other relevant data points are also documented. Farmers with their own smartphones can use an app connected to the system to manage and verify their sales and the payments received. All other players can also digitally manage their supply chain via the system and perform a wide range of analyses using various dashboards.


The digital solution is being developed in close cooperation with farmers and cooperatives (Design with the user). In this way, the project ensures that the solution meets the needs of the farmers. The next step will be to integrate carbon footprint data and a module to facilitate access to agricultural credit into the system. 


Products with a high-quality profile:


As a result, the coffee is given an identity. It is no longer a cheap, exchangeable mass product, but a differentiated product with a high-quality profile, such as "Wild coffee from the Dire Gudinaa Cooperative". Its supply chain and distribution of value added have become transparent. International buyers are prepared to pay significantly higher prices for such a product. The significant added value is directly reflected in the income of farming households. In conjunction with other measures, such as those aimed at strengthening participatory forest management, this also reduces the pressure to clear forest in favour of cultivated land and light irradiation.


From the network of the Initiative for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains (INA) of the NAS programme, a number of companies are already ready to buy both coffee and beeswax from the project as soon as the first tranches have passed the traceability system. In addition, the solution is integrated into a global marketplace (Beyco) for specialty coffee, where several hundred buyers and suppliers are already registered. All transactions including paid prices and quantities purchased can be made publicly visible here.


The digitalisation solution can be used freely by both suppliers and buyers. During development, great attention is therefore also paid to ensuring that it can be easily transferred to other contexts. There are already agreements to use the traceability and marketplace solution in other growing countries such as Colombia.


Perhaps the next time you visit the cooperative's office, you will already see a solar module that supplies the farmers' smartphones with electricity - the charging cables then lead into the corner of the small room where the register books are still piled up today. These will soon no longer be needed. We will report.

Searching for fellow campaigners

Are your organization or business operating in Ethiopia or the above or other commodities? Would you like to become active together with the INA for living income? Then write us!


This project is carried out by the Global Programme Sustainability and Value Added in Agricultural Supply Chains.