15,000 trees to combat desertification in Ethiopia

by WeForest
15,000 trees to combat desertification in Ethiopia
Gebreyesus G. examining tree seedlings
Gebreyesus G. examining tree seedlings

In Central Tigray in Ethiopia, WeForest collaborates with partners Mekelle University and Tigray Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development to support local community in training and creating jobs.

One of the workers from the community is Gebreyesus G. who manages the plantation site in the Seret-Guragursa watershed. He is a war veteran and has lost his hand during the conflict. Enthusiastic to contribute to landscape restoration in his village, he is a key person in community mobilization and monitoring of the plantation sites. Gebreyesus boldly expresses his commitment to transform the degraded environment: “Rehabilitation and restoration of degraded hillsides is the base for our existence. Long time ago, this site was a forest area composed of big trees like Olive and Croton but, due to mismanagement, free grazing and uncontrolled utilization the area gradually became a degraded hillside. We now see scattered Acacia trees, shrubs and aloe. This is why the rainfall became erratic and sometimes causes floods, which is very threatening for the farmers living at the bottom of the hillside as farming is becoming less productive. It also causes landslides and rolling of big stones to streams, settlement areas and farmlands.”

Before joining the project, Gebreyesus was for seven years administrator of kebele (Ethiopian administrative municipality). “Previously, my colleagues and I have achieved a number of remarkable outcomes in soil and water conservation. Our village was named first in our sub-region for seven consecutive years. A major factor in our success is the commitment of the community to work at what they believe in and their interest in creating a good environment for everyone’s lives. The community understands tree planting and soil and water conservation are the basis for restoring the degraded lands,” says Gebreyesus. Looking down hopefully from the peak of the mountain on farmlands below, he goes on to say: “I am confident that we will achieve our objectives and make the site a show-case for other districts.”

Since the start of 2017, a total of 34,300 trees were planted in the Seret Kebele, enriching 45 ha of degraded forest land. Thanks to your donations, WeForest will continue to support the management and monitoring of planted seedlings and create livelihood opportunities for the community residing around these areas.

Community workers working on the project site
Community workers working on the project site
Community worker planting tree seedlings
Community worker planting tree seedlings
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Community mobilization to construct and renew soil
Community mobilization to construct and renew soil

 Over 500 households are contributing to prepare the planting site

The villagers of Seret, are preparing for the rainy season in summer time, when seedlings will be transplanted.

There is a high level of engagement amongst community members in the project, and around 553 households participated in the construction of physical barriers for renewal of the water conservation and reduced soil run-off structures (Figure below). This labor was freely provided as contributions from the community.

The physical structures serve as in situ water harvesting mechanism and reduce speedy run-off coming from the top hill which sometimes cause land-sliding and big stones rolling to down slope farmlands and settlements. This will increase the effectiveness of the upcoming planting season thanks to higher water availability.    

The rural community of Seret is enthusiastic to see their watershed rehabilitated so that it can provide important ecosystem services like clean water, soil stability, animal feed and a habitat for honeybees.

In the coming months, villagers will carry out the planting, restoration activities and aftercare. 

Women participation in planting sites preparation
Women participation in planting sites preparation
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The nursery bed at Mygoa Nursery
The nursery bed at Mygoa Nursery

We want to take this opportunity to say a big thank you for supporting our efforts to restore the landscape of Ethiopia’s Tigray region. 

The project, which we launched last year, restores degraded lands to productive, flourishing forests for people and planet.

So, where are we now? Well, we’ve identified where we will be focusing our restoration efforts, that is, which areas need it the most, and have partnered with several communities in the region to get involved in our efforts.

With much of the decision-making out of the way, we’re extremely excited to announce that our first nurseries are in operation in Tigray. One of these is the Mygoa nursery. We've been busy preparing the nursery bed and planting seeds at Mygoa and we’re just waiting for them to germinate. 19 people manage the nursery, caring for and preparing the seedlings for planting. In time for the first planting season, when the next rainy season begins around June, the Mygoa nursery team will have grown around 40,000 seedlings.

We’ve been extremely busy these last few months collecting seeds from the nearby forest and local markets and will continue to collect even more seeds over the coming months. We’ll be setting up more nurseries as well, so that we can get as many trees growing as possible.

It is our aim to plant 32,380 trees this year. 

Thank you for making all of this possible. Together, we're Making Earth Cooler.

Our team sieves the soil for our seedling pots
Our team sieves the soil for our seedling pots
Our team prepares the pots for planting
Our team prepares the pots for planting
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Employment at one of the tree nurseries
Employment at one of the tree nurseries

We said it before and we will continue saying it: reforestation can only be successful and sustainable if local people benefit. It goes without saying that WeForest involves local communities in all of its activities on the ground.

In Tigray we organized three community meetings in the past months to discuss how to make the new forests beneficial. People came up with several ideas, including honey production, timber from eucalyptus and fodder for cattle, goats and sheep. Besides these income generating activities, the reforestation project also creates real jobs: 20 people are involved in seed collection, 19 are employed in tree nurseries, 500 people will be paid to help plant the tree seedlings once they are ready and it is raining, 30 people will take care of the seedlings and the project will employ 4 guards. All in all, the project directly creates extra income for 573 people and their families.

Please have a look at the attached planting report in which you will find photos of the community meetings, and of the first planting site where forest restoration will start as soon as the rains begin.

Enjoy reading the report and please contact us if you have questions or would like to hear more about the reforestation project in Tigray, Ethiopia. Thank you for supporting WeForest and for Making Earth Cooler.

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Engaging local people in decision making
Engaging local people in decision making

People often ask WeForest: how do you guarantee the trees will grow? This is an excellent question. The answer is: only when trees are important for the local people they will take care of them and make sure the trees grow to their full potential. Engaging local communities in our reforestation activities is crucial for success and we take this very serious.

On Saturday 22 October 2016 in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, WeForest held an on-site consultative meeting and discussion with local government officials, foresters from the local Mekele University, community leaders and community representatives to discuss and plan the next stages of the reforestation project in Central Tigray.  The new forests are planned for heavily degraded areas, called exclosures (because they are not accessible for grazing cattle).

On the agenda to discuss were; the exclosures by-laws, that is, the regulations and rights regarding current and future use of the exclosure and site management to optimize ecosystem services, how best to involve the vulnerable members of the society (poor families and women) and how to manage the tree nurseries.

We heard what indigenous species community members would prefer to plant (e.g Olea europaea, Acacia abyssinica, and Juniperus procera) and which additional income generating activities they are most interested in. Honey production is the most promising options and ranked first by community representatives. It was also decided that the community will provide free labour to make soil and water conservation structures in the planting area. In kind contributions, like free labour, are crucial for creating long-term community support for the new forests.

With the decision-making out of the way, we will be setting up the community-based nurseries and growing our first batch of seedlings next month.

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Organization Information


Location: Brussels - Belgium
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @WeForest_org
Project Leader:
Maurah Van Impe
Overijse, Belgium

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