Samuel Larsson, Program Officer Refugee Assistance, LWF Ethiopia – Alertnet
In Ethiopia local governments, the private sector and development actors have joined hands in replanting Ethiopia’s once vast forests. The initiative is called Greening Ethiopia, and calls for focused efforts to conserve natural resources and reforesting as a response to the impacts of climate change which are becoming increasingly visible in the country. Among the pledges, Ethiopian Airlines stands out with their promise to plant one tree for each passenger.
LWF Ethiopia program has joined the movement, and has set an ambiguous target for 2010. Half a million trees shall be raised and transplanted in the different projects areas during the year. That implies some 100,000 trees in each project, almost double the normal annual target.
Ethiopia has seen a dramatic deforestation during the past decades. Over 90% of all energy consumption comes from biomass, and every year around one percent of the country’s remaining forests are turned into charcoal and houses, or just burned to make room for the ever increasing need for more farmland.
As a result, peoples of the once green and forested highlands of Ethiopia are now struggling with food insecurity caused by severe soil degradation, decreasing harvests, disastrous erosion and reduced drought resistance. It’s a situation which drives farmers to clear even more forests to feed their families – a vicious cycle, indeed.
Except from trying to reforest Ethiopia with actual tree planting, LWF Ethiopia is also approaching the problem from the other end by teaching farmers a sustainable land use. Improved agriculture practices reduce the need to cultivate more farmland. Soil conserving structures such as soil bunds around cultivated areas protect the lands from erosion during heavy rains, and let the soil keep it’s moist in times of drought.
Tree planting, natural resource conservation and agriculture development are all fundamental parts of LWF Ethiopia’s several Integrated Community Development Projects, assisting a few hundred thousands of Ethiopians to develop their communities and adapt to a changing climate. But they are also activities that have spilled over into the organization’s refugee assistance and humanitarian projects, based on the belief that a sustainable environmental lifestyle is the key to reach food security, in the short and in the long run.