WATER. It is essential not only to our planet, but essential in producing superior quality coffee, which is why WATER is at the heart of Brown Gold’s dedication to sustainability.

The WaterWise Coffee initiative is focused on improving water access, conservation and purity in coffee producing countries. In collaboration with our partn​ers, Brown Gold has committed to fully funding projects which will improve and protect water quality and the quality of life of those who depend on this vital resource.

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WaterWise Video          site  


Brown Gold is thrilled to launch our WaterWise site where we will be providing updates on our efforts to improve the quality of life for coffee producers.

For many years, our green coffee buyers observed vast quantities of water being used in the production and processing of fine quality green coffees during their sourcing trips around the world. Surrounding communities are forced to draw water for personal use from the same sources that feed their farm fields and livestock, even though this water could have passed through fermentation operations related to “wet milling” green coffee. Not an ideal situation, but one created out of necessity. So when we decided to establish a program to aid coffee producers we knew exactly what we wanted to focus on – WATER.

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There is a crisis:

  • 780 million people lack access to an improved water source;
    approximately one in nine people globally.
  • 3.41 million people die from water sanitation and hygiene-related
    causes each year.
  • The water and sanitation crises claims more lives through disease than
    any war claims through guns.

Those areas most affected by the water crisis are highly aligned with coffee producing countries. Their issue is our issue.​

Like all agricultural crops, coffee needs water in the form of irrigation to aid growth. However coffee requires water not only during its growing cycle but also during the process of preparation for international trade and export. A practice referred to as ‘wet milling’ strips the fleshy exterior of a coffee cherry down to the green coffee bean which is then fermented in large water tanks allowing enzymes to break down the sticky substance left on the bean. They’re then washed, and flow through water channels that use gravity to separate higher and lower density beans. This process can result in substantial volumes of waste material being discharged into the rivers and streams, polluting the water that communities in coffee producing regions are heavily dependent upon.

As part of our “No Compromise” mandate, we recognize that innovative efforts are needed to improve this process and to minimize the impact on the environment and the people who live in the communities where our coffee comes from. site site  


Beginning in the Sidama region, where our 100% Ethiopian coffee is produced, Brown Gold has partnered with TechnoServe, a leading NGO based in Washington,​ DC that’s dedicated to helping men and women in poor areas of the developing world through technical education and support. Over the next three years, the Water Wise project will improve waste water treatment at 17 wet mills by installing vetiver grass wetlands to treat and remove effluent. This waste water slowly passes through the vetiver grass, where the deep root structure acts as a natural filter and the flat shallow surface area quickens the evaporation process.

Over the period of this project river water quality will be measured so we can clearly demonstrate that the volume of effluent material is decreasing in substantial amounts. We envision that, over time, this project will be the catalyst for an evolution in our expectations of sustainability in Ethiopia and around the world.


My name is Legesse Dengiso and I am a farmer in Habeja Village. I remember years ago when we used to be able to drink from the Kolla River – when it was clean enough. These days it has been polluted by the wet mills surrounding it and we can’t drink it any more. This means that the women have to walk a much longer distance to get clean drinking water.

Our animals are still drinking this polluted water, because there is no other option. And everyone in this village uses the Kolla River for sanitation – it’s only here that we can wash our clothes, our body and fetch water for other household uses.

When the wet mills are running, it’s difficult just to pass through the river because it smells very bad – like rotting materials. We’re always scared of water-borne diseases b​ecause it’s difficult to get health services unless we go to a larger town that’s far away and expensive.

My hope is that one day this river will be free of any waste water pollution. I want it to become clean again, as it was before, so we don’t have to be afraid for the health of our children and our animals.

Legesse Dengiso