The Yayu Coffee Forest 
Biosphere Reserve

A Biodiversity hotspot in peril

The montane rainforests in the southwest of Ethiopia form part of the Eastern Afromontane biodiversity hotspot. The few remaining cloud forest areas are of significance not just to Ethiopia, but globally: Apart from a breathtaking diversity of plant and animal species, these forests host one of the few remaining wild Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica) populations in the world.

Despite its ecological and cultural importance, the Afromontane forest ecosystem has been suffering from rapid clearance and degradation, largely due to social, economic, and political factors over the past few decades. Today, some of the remaining Afromontane forests are designated under the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MaB) program.

Yayu Coffee Forest 
Biosphere Reserve
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The Journey to become a Biosphere Reserve

The idea to designate the Yayo area as a Biosphere Reserve was rooted in concerns among numerous stakeholders working in the environmental sphere, who observed a rapid deterioration and degradation of the area in 2005. With the Environment and Coffee Forest Forum (ECFF) taking the lead, the application process got started, leading to the final designation of the “Yayu Coffee Forest Biosphere Reserve” in 2010.

The use of the name “Yayu” has always been criticised by local communities. When the biosphere reserve was nominated for UNESCO recognition, it was presented under the name “Yayu”, which had been officially recognised at the federal level as a priority forest area during the Derg regime. Still, the name “Yayo” is preferred within the community because it holds significance as an Oromo clan name. Conclusively, the familiarity and alignment of the name “Yayo” with peoples’ identity leads to ongoing opposition of the official nomenclature.

The Yayu Coffee Forest Biosphere
Reserve serves three key functions:

Yayu Conservation


The area is recognised for its regional and global significance for in situ conservation of genetic diversity in Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica), being home to the largest and most diverse wild population of this species. Based on old estimates, there are over 450 higher plant-, 50 mammal-, and 20 amphibian species occurring in the Biosphere Reserve area. Altogether, there are over 100 endemic species of plants, birds and mammals. At least 44 recorded species of the Biosphere Reserve are globally under threat of extinction, according to the IUCN Red list.

Yayu Sustainable Development

Sustainable Development

Biosphere Reserves shall foster sustainable economic and human development, ensuring that such development is socially and ecologically sustainable. The Yayo area plays a crucial role in Ethiopia's coffee industry and the main income for most of its people comes from coffee. Farmers are also involved in spice and honey production, further contributing to the local economy.

Yayu Research and Education

Research and Education

One of the main mandates of the Biosphere Reserve is to support pilot endeavors serving sustainable development, foster environmental education, training, research, and monitoring related to conservation and sustainable development at the local, regional, national, and global level. The area hosts multiple research initiatives and projects targeted towards sustainable development, value chain improvement for coffee, health and civil society engagement.

In summary, the Yayu Coffee Forest Biosphere Reserve represents a multifaceted ecosystem that combines conservation, sustainable development, and research initiatives to protect its unique biodiversity and rich coffee heritage while supporting the social and economic well-being of its people.