Chira, Ethiopia — Every month Ethiopian coffee farmer Zelalem Tadesse makes the arduous journey to court to fight for the return of the land he inherited from his father. For years the 46-year-old father of three has cultivated the small patch of land deep in Ethiopia’s southwestern forests that he says a nearby commercial coffee farm took from him. "When I go to get my land back it’s very expensive," he said of his trips to the town of Jimma and, more recently, the capital Addis Ababa. "But my life totally depends on this land." Tadesse has no formal title deeds to the land and although Ethiopia recognises some customary rights to forest access, in practice these are often ignored by the local authorities and investors. He and his neighbours in Chira, a small highland town dependent on coffee production, complain that their livelihoods are being squeezed by commercial investors in the region’s ancient forests. Anger over land expropriations and unfair compensation drove protests ac...

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