Some people are in a position where they can afford to deny climate change. For Republican politicians in the United States, for example, and for certain business leaders, it’s relatively easy to bury one’s head in the sand and not face any major repercussions, politically or economically. For others, though, recognizing the problem and responding is a life-or-death proposition. One such example comes out of Ethiopia.

According to eNews Channel Africa, the coffee industry in that nation faces dire straits unless growers are able to adapt to climate obstacles

Ethiopia takes its coffee very seriously, as it’s the source of the prized Arabica bean—a major cash cow for the country’s economy. Coffee is the nation’s largest source of export revenue, bringing in over $860 million during the 2016-2017 production year. But with rising temperatures and increasing droughts coming about due to climate change, experts now say the industry is in jeopardy. The key coffee-growing areas in the eastern part of the country have seen temperature increases averaging 1.3 degrees Celsius in the last 30 years. As a result, thousands of hectares of coffee plants are lost.

“Since the coffee beans were still green by the beginning of 2018 due to a shortage of rain, it led to a delay in coffee processing and export, effectively meaning breach of contract with our North American, Asian and European customers,” said Aman Adinew, chief executive of Metad Agricultural Development.

The response from coffee growers in Ethiopia has not been to give up on their cash crop; rather, it’s been to adapt. Farmers are finding that as temperatures rise, parcels of land at higher elevations which were once too cold for coffee crops are now suitable. By moving uphill and finding new available farmland, growers are keeping business afloat.

Not all coffee farmers in Ethiopia are bigwigs like Adinew, who runs a nationwide conglomerate. In fact, eNews Channel Africa reported that 90 percent of the industry is driven by small-scale farms. Collectively, those farms employ around 20 percent of Ethiopia’s total population of 100 million. By recognizing climate change and adjusting accordingly to its effects, an entire country has been able to keep its economy humming along.

Photo: A woman sells coffee beans in an Ethiopian market. Credit:  Oscar Espinosa /