Ethiopia's Big Jump in Afforestation –

by Zelalem

Recently, Ethiopia officially launched the annual seedlings plantation program to be implemented at a national level. The government plans to plant 4.3 billion seedlings on a million of hectare of land this Ethiopian rainy season.

During the launch of the annual seeding program Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen said, “The program has a significant contribution for the success of Ethiopia’s ongoing green growth strategy. The annual seedlings plantation program needs to be result-oriented. We should work to meet the forest product demands of Ethiopia’s growing economy. “

The Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change said Ethiopia envisaged raising national forest coverage to 30 percent by 2025 from 15.5 per cent now.

Indeed, Ethiopia has been making major headways in rehabilitating its forestry and expanding its coverage. The forest cover in the country has shown some significant increase as a result of reforestation in Ethiopia over the last decade.

As reliable data and documents papers indicate high forests were the climax vegetation of 35 – 40 percent of Ethiopia before human settlement took place. With the inclusion of savanna woodlands some 66 per cent of the country was covered with forest or woodlands at that time. Over the last 5000 years, there has been progressive deforestation, which has accelerated tremendously during the last century as the country’s population has grown.

According to different scholarly sources, about 35 – 40 per cent of the land area of Ethiopia was covered with high forests at the turn of the 19 century.

However, rapid population growth (3 per cent per year), extensive forest clearing for cultivation and over-grazing, movement of political centers, and exploitation of forests for fuel wood and construction materials without replanting has reduced the forest area of the country to 16 per cent in the 1950’s and 3.1 per cent in 1982.

However, the total forest cover of Ethiopia has tripled in size since 2000 as a result of large-scale reforestation campaigns.

Ethiopia planted more than 700 million trees in 2007 alone, according to the UN, surpassing Mexico that planted 217 million and the rest of the world in a drive to combat climate change through new lush forest projects.

Last year, the government disclosed, “Due to the various multifaceted natural resource conservation, reforestation, and other related activities carried out during the past decade, Ethiopia’s forest coverage has reached 15 per cent.”

Indeed, the source of this impressive stride is nothing but the prudent policy adopted and the leadership commitment towards the forestry development.

The overall policy goal of the government envisages, “To improve and enhance the health and quality of life of all Ethiopians and to promote sustainable social and economic development through the sound management and use of natural, human-made and cultural resources and the environment as a whole so as to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Following that course, the key directions adopted with regard to the development of Forest, Woodland and Tree Resources were:

To recognize the complementary roles of communities, private entrepreneurs and the state in forestry development;

* Encourage all concerned individuals and communities as well as the government to actively involve in the planning and implementation of forestry programmes to ensure sustainability, minimize cost, and forestall conflict;

To ensure that forestry development strategies integrate the development, management and conservation of forest resources with those of land and water resources, energy resources, ecosystems and genetic resources, as well as with crop and livestock production;

To adhere to the principle that “sustainable forest management” is achieved when social acceptability and economic viability have been achieved and the volume of wood harvested in a given period is about equal to the net growth that the forest is capable of generating.

Indeed, the policy direction has paid off.

According to recent data, about 15 per cent of the country’s surface area is now forested (16 million hectares).

Another 44.6 million hectares are under wooded land. The forest vegetation consists mainly of Acacia and Boswellia, but also includes some high forest, riverine woodlands, mixed deciduous woodlands and bamboo woodlands.

Moreover, very significant stride have been achieved in the rehabilitation of degraded landmass through area closures and reforestation/afforestation in the last 20 years.

Until 2009/10, area closures cover about 1.5 million hectares whereas areas covered by reforestation/afforestation account for about 6.1 million hectares. Most of these areas have now reached the level of forest stand definition.

The progress forest coverage has now reached 15.5per cent.The ambition is to reach the national forest coverage to 30 percent by 2025.To achieve that, the government plans to plant 4.3 billion seedlings on a million of hectare of land this Ethiopian rainy season.

The annual seeding program is yet another demonstration of Ethiopia’s commitment to a green future.

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