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The Sidama economy is largely agricultural. This sector remains the mainstay for the majority of the people who depend on it for their livelihood and employment. Coffee is the largest income- earning plant. It is grown in five districts out of ten.
The Wesse plant (also called enset), is endogenous to Sidama; it is the largest a source of staple food. Its production technique remains backward requiring research and improvement if the situation of women is to be improved. Several other crops and vegetables also grow in Sidama. Animal husbandry is common along farming. Cattle are usually kept for milk and meat or as a form of wealth accumulation.
Trade, industry and tourist as well as service activities are restricted in the urban areas.
Coffee is the largest income earner for Sidama farmers. Sidama produces a quality coffee for export known under Ethiopian Standards as Sidamo1 coffee. Its major classification is under Coffee Arabica. Major international buyers of Sidama coffee are Germany, USA, France, and Japan. Inefficient and depressive economic policies of successive Ethiopian governments have halted the growth in quality and the benefits to the producers. World coffee market also exhibits deteriorating trend.
Coffee is collected by traditional, labor intensive techniques. The recent drought has seriously affected coffee plants and production is estimated to fall. Sidama has never experienced drought of such proportions.
'I read a 1997 publication entitled "The Tree Against Hunger," by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in collaboration with the Awassa Agricultural Research Center, on the Enset plant, in which the results of research over the past seven years was discussed, as well as food security and sustainability, the origin and history of the plant, the ecology and environment as well as the future prospects for the plant.'
Enset- The "Tree Against Hunger" (external link to 'Information on wesse, or enset, aka the false banana, an important but underutilized drought-resistant food plant'. A study by Steven A. Brandt, et al for American Association for the Advancement of Science with Awassa Agricultural Research Center Kyoto University Center for African Area Studies and University of Florida)
Access to extensive health services is extremely grave due to the fact that there is only one hospital in Sidama to serve the needs of the entire population, and many rural communities do not even have access to basic health care services.
Investment in infrastructure is extremely underdeveloped as few towns have electricity or a clean water supply. Deprivation in rural areas is even more extreme. Many remote parts have no roads. There is only one highway; there are no air ports and no rail transport despite the favorable terrain.
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