The forest in southwestern Ethiopia is a biodiversity hotspot of global importance. Here smallholder farmers produce coffee under the shade of trees. The coffee grown in this region is the main source of cash income for several million people in Ethiopia. Coffee is also a primary export commodity for the country. Apart from the economic importance, this shade coffee production system has contributed to preserve forest cover and nurture habitats for forest-dwelling mammals. But there is also a negative consequence to this synergy between smallholder cash crop production and biodiversity values.
A recently published study by Tola Gemechu Ango and co-authors, shows that child labour plays an important role in coffee berry picking and the protection of crops from being eaten by forest-dwelling mammals. Such work caused serious problem of school absenteeism in many children’s formal education. The findings expose how some of the measures taken to mitigate the problem of school absenteeism were also coercive and posed threats to poor households as well as to their school children. The study concludes that child work in coffee production and crop protection is at the cost of school attendance for many children, which represents a critical social justice issue and a trade-off with the economic and environmental values of the forest. It highlights that reducing poverty would likely mitigate the problem of child labour and school absenteeism and promote synergistic development in the region.
A photo (©: TGA, 2019) showing part of the agriculture-forest mosaic landscapes in southwestern Ethiopia. Coffee is produced under the shade of forest trees.
The article is available here: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijedudev.2022.102681