The Hunger Project-Ethiopia and WeForest, a Belgian nonprofit, have formally launched a collaborative, community-led forest restoration and land rehabilitation program. The projects will begin in the Machakel district of the Amhara region in northwestern Ethiopia.
Environmental degradation is a crucial challenge in Ethiopia. According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development , Ethiopia loses 2 billion tons of fertile soil due to land degradation each year. The effects of climate change only compound these environmental challenges and make development interventions more difficult. In Machakel, land degradation is primarily caused by intensive agricultural practices, lack of awareness of sustainable land management practices and high rainfall. Currently, only 9% of the land is covered by forest.
To restore the land, The Hunger Project-Ethiopia and WeForest plan to work with community partners to plant 3 million trees. Staff members will work with local farmers and government officials to conduct an initial assessment to identify local plants used for food, animal forage, timber, firewood and other needs. After the seedlings are raised in tree nurseries, staff and community members will plant the seedlings across three phases, with a target of 1.2 million seedlings planted for 2017. In addition, communities will be trained in sustainable agricultural practices, from techniques to stop cattle from grazing on the growing forest to the production and promotion of ecological cooking stoves and bricks to replace timber for construction.
The dual goal of the reforestation project is to not only rehabilitate and protect the environment but also improve the livelihoods of local communities. Farmers can incorporate trees into their farming practices, adding a second income stream. Land restoration could improve agricultural yields and result in better nutrition and health outcomes for community members.
To celebrate the start of the program, The Hunger Project-Ethiopia invited community representatives, regional, zonal and woreda government representatives, and We-forest representatives to a launch event on March 7, 2017. Stakeholders shared their views and expressed support and commitment to the project, mobilizing the local community.