Deep in the heart of the southwestern region of Ethiopia is Jimma city. Accessing Jimma by road is a 410-kilometre trip with picturesque scenery passing through the breathtaking rift valley, the endless acres of teff, maize and the undulating countryside.
Fifty kilometres in the outskirts of Jimma deep in the highlands are the coffee plantations. Coffee plantation Development Enterprise (CPDE) owns Limmu Coffee Plantation, which manages Gomma 1, Gomma 2, Kossa, Suntu, Gummer, Gojeb and Cheleleki plantations. The Enterprise owns has 11,182 hectares of plantation 70% of it under coffee. Owing to the massive tonnage of coffee processed in a season, these plantations also generate huge amounts of waste. The waste is categorized into husks waste from dry processing of coffee and pulp and mucilage from wet processing.
The plantation has attempted tried its best to manage this waste to minimize pollution and bad odors by constructing lagoons to hold the wastewater, utilizing husks for mulching and as fertilizer in the coffee fields, and using microorganisms for biodegradation. However, the plantation still has a problem managing the pulp; lacks the machines to take all the pulp to the fields and the face challenging managing waste during the harvesting and processing season due to overlapping of activities.
Short Term Ethiopian Coffee Production Strategy (Source: Google)
Under the Bio-Innovate Program, Dr Berhanu Assefa from the Chemical Engineering Department at the Addis Ababa Institute of Technology (AAIT), and a project leader for the Ethiopia component of project 4 approached CPDE to collaborate in finding solutions to their existing problems. The project team came up with the idea to cultivate mushrooms from the husks and the pulp and to produce biogas from the resultant remnants and make bio-fertilizers through a pilot-scale facility, which could later be scaled up to, service the entire plantation.
With a partnership agreement in hand, CPDE would provide a project site for the facility worth Birr 200,000 equivalent to $11,100. They would also provide water, electricity, the raw material (husks and pulp) and workers for the project. Through Bio-Innovate, AAIT would construct the pilot plants for mushroom and biogas, conduct research and provide technical backstopping, finance part of the operations at the plantation and train the plantation staff on managing the facilities. The Ethiopian component had an added advantage by working with CPDE. The enterprise produces their coffee without use of pesticides. They only use herbicides that are biodegradable. This is important because the project will produce edible oyster mushrooms using chemical free pulp and mucilage.
The mushroom facility under construction (photo credit: Albert Mwangi)
The pilot facilities at the plant are only four months away from commission where the project team will hand over the pilot facility to the plantation’s management to run.
The Program Management Team (PMT) was impressed by the remarkable progress made during their visit to his project site at Gomma and also appreciated the technological challenges at hand. The facility is envisaged to produce 1000kgs of mushroom every month to be marketed to a number of hotels and restaurants in Addis Ababa. The biogas facility will produce 25m3 litres of gas daily when it achieves it full capacity which will then be converted to electricity to augment the energy needs of the plantation.
“This collaboration with AAIT has opened our eyes to better opportunities in managing our waste. We want our plantations to produce the best coffee but at the same time protect the environment we work in”, Teferi Oljirra, Plantation Manager at Gomma 2 under CPDE, commented during the PMT plantation tour. CPDE is looking to replicate this innovation across all its plantations in Ethiopia. This will be important for the coffee industry to not only address environmental challenges but also add value that improves the competitiveness of these agro-industries. These technologies when ready can easily be out-scaled in other countries in the region.