May 01, 2019

Project Waterfall - Providing Fresh Water in Yayu, Ethiopia

Last updated: May 15, 2024

Haven’t you heard? It’s UK Coffee Week! You’ll find coffee shops all over the UK doing bits and bobs to raise money for Project Waterfall - a charitable initiative set up by the Allegra Foundation that positively impacts the lives of people in coffee growing communities by increasing access to clean drinking water and sanitation. We wanted to share our story and how, together with Project Waterfall, we were able to help provide running water to a coffee-growing community in Yayu, Ethiopia.

The story actually dates a little bit further back to 2014 when Union, along with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Ethiopia Coffee Conservation Forest Forum started on a project, funded by the Darwin Initiative, to create more resilient and sustainable livelihoods in the coffee-growing communities in Yayu. You can read a bit more about that here.

Although our official partnership with The Darwin Initiative has come to an end, we continue to work closely with 5 co-operatives in the area, continue to buy coffee from these communities and help to develop sustainable livelihoods. One area of focus has been to build a training centre/cupping lab in Wutete (the centre of the 5 co-operatives) to develop quality assessment capabilities. It wasn’t just the physical structure of the cupping lab that was required, but the provision of piped fresh water to support the activities.

A nearby well to Wutete was the perfect source for water - but there was no pipes or pumps in order to direct it to Wutete. We donated £9,000 towards tanks, pipework, taps and materials which created the literal pipeline between the well and cupping lab. Together, the local community took ownership of building the trenches and laying the pipes.

The solar-powered (no electricity necessary!) pump was the next step. The pump, materials and labour costs amounted to approximately £30,000. In August 2018, we approached Project Waterfall to support the funding for the pump as it had wider benefits to the community beyond coffee: improving access to drinking water and sanitation for the children of the school and teachers. By October 2018, Project Waterfall had matched Union’s £15,000 grant to help fund the pump in Wutete.

The construction of the building was completed and although initially intended to be used for a cupping lab, we were unable to achieve this. The building has now been donated to the local community. The school has access to fresh water and a local committee has been created to manage the ongoing maintenance of the well equipment and pipe work. The committee is made up of representatives from the water, mineral and energy agency; Kebele (parish) chairman and local representatives of villages. Anyone using the water pays an annual levy to ensure there are further funds to cope with ongoing maintenance.

Have an amazing UK Coffee Week and do check out and and find out how you can also get involved! And don’t forget that 25p of every bag of Yayu Forest coffee you buy in the supermarkets goes towards our work in Yayu in creating sustainable livelihoods in coffee-growing communities!

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