The first batch of Water Wise CoffeeTM wet mills are along the Kola River, in the Aletawando district of Ethiopia’s Sidama coffee region.
The wet mills often need large quantities of river water for their operations – washing and processing the beans, and lubricating the pulping machine. They use the river water for processing the coffee cherries bought from the local farmers, but the river is precious to all the villagers in its catchment area. The mills have to share the river with the villagers.
That’s why making sure the water is clean, uncontaminated by coffee waste, is so important.
Most families in Aletawando collect water from the river every day for use in their homes, carrying it back in distinctive yellow plastic jerrycans.
Women wash their family’s clothes in the river and children from the villages often play there after school. The villagers’ animals also drink from it. It can sometimes be a busy place!
The family of Mulu Sube, one of the villagers featured in the documentary, is a typical example. Her family uses clean, piped water for drinking, but her children help her collect 20 liters of water a day from the river for use at home.
Mulu lives with her husband and four children. She lives next door to the Selam Gebre Niguse wet mill, a Water Wise Coffee™ wet mill named after its owner. In season, when the mill is in operation, Mulu often takes drinks to the laborers.
“Pollution used to cause a lot of harm. Cattle were dying and the river had a very bad smell.”
Another villager, Alenesh Domboba, lives by the Gidibona Sheicha wet mill. Now in her 70s, she remembers what the river was like in her youth.
“The river had no use, but we learned that it could be fixed. Now, we use it to wash our clothes and cook our food.”
More than 480,000 people rely on water from the Kola River and the surrounding rivers and tributaries.