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Yayu Coffee Forest Biosphere Reserve

The Yayu Coffee Forest Biosphere Reserve is situated

in Ilu Abba Bora Zone of the Oromia Regional State, southwestern Ethiopia. It is the center of origin for the most popular coffee in the world, Coffea arabica. Yayu is the largest and most important forest for the conservation of the wild populations in the World. The area plays a key role in the conservation of natural and cultural landscapes. The biosphere reserve includes Eastern Afromontane Biodiversity Hotspot and Important Bird Areas of international significance. The area is also of cultural and historical significance since it possesses many archaeological sites, ritual sites, caves and waterfalls.

The Yayu Coffee Forest Biosphere Reserve has three different management zones, namely: core area, buffer zone, and transition area. Zonation has been conducted based on research conducted on the forest over the last ten years- the "Conservation and use of the wild populations of Coffea arabica in the montane raiforests of Ethiopia, CoCE" (www.coffee.uni-bonn.de), and the relevant Ethiopian land and forest laws. The forest is a National Forest Priority Area (NFPA), mainly for conservation of biodiversity and coffee genetic resources. Part of the forest has also been designated for coffee genetic resources conservation in 1998. CoCE research works aimed at designing a management approach that incorporated both conservation and sustainable use, and concluded that the UNESCO biosphere reserve approach as the best management option. To develop a rational biosphere reserve area zonation, ecological research produced the first biophysical criteria for zonation in 2002. With further research on coffee population genetics, functional diversity, economic and institutional analysis and forest spatial distribution studies, the biophysical and social criteria were further refined through community participation. Accordingly, abundance patterns of wild Coffee arabica populations, species diversity pattern, human disturbance risk and forest vegetation cover types were mapped and used as inputs for multi-criteria evaluation using GIS. Social criteria, like use right claims by community members and infrastructures (e.g., roads and location of homesteads), were used as parameters for zonation. The biosphere reserve management zones will be incorporated into the Oromiya Land Use Plan, which is under preparation by Oromiya Land and Environmental Protection Bureau and expected to cover the whole state within the coming two years.

Core areas are areas with high abundance of wild Arabica coffee and high species diversity, and currently or historically not managed by the local communities. Hence, the core areas represent relatively intact forest of high conservation value for coffee and forest biodiversity. These areas are excluded from any use, except for research and monitoring purposes. In areas where roads pass through forests of the core area, a buffer zone of at least 400 m width was left on both sides due to potential human impact risk in the long-term. In the design of the core areas, care was taken to avoid small forest fragments, since smaller areas increase edge effects and are vulnerable to human impact and increase the possibility of gene flow between surrounding cultivated coffee and wild coffee populations. 

Buffer zones include managed forest areas.  They are managed by the members of the local community for coffee, spices and honey production in the form of semi-forest coffee systems. In this system, the coffee plants are of wild origin (genetically wild), but the number of shade trees and understorey vegetation is reduced by 30 to 50% in order to enhance coffee production.

The transition area represents an area of the biosphere reserve where sustainable development is promoted for the improvement of the livelihoods of the local community. The transition area in the proposed biosphere reserve includes agricultural land, grazing land, settlement areas, coffee homegardens, small plantations and some semi-forest coffee production areas. These areas are under intensive human use and therefore demand the promotion of sustainable resource use, which is the major objective to be attained in the transition zone. Moreover, the perception of the local community living next to the forest is taken into account during zonation. Apart from this, thorough discussions have been undertaken with local farmers, the chairmen of the kebeles (local government body), and district administration.

See also: http://www.unesco.org/mabdb/br/brdir/directory/biores.asp?code=ETH+02&mode=all