Forest landscape restoration in Northern Ethiopia

by WeForest
Forest landscape restoration in Northern Ethiopia
Forest landscape restoration in Northern Ethiopia
Forest landscape restoration in Northern Ethiopia
Forest landscape restoration in Northern Ethiopia
Forest landscape restoration in Northern Ethiopia
Forest landscape restoration in Northern Ethiopia
Forest landscape restoration in Northern Ethiopia
Forest landscape restoration in Northern Ethiopia
Forest landscape restoration in Northern Ethiopia
Forest landscape restoration in Northern Ethiopia
Forest landscape restoration in Northern Ethiopia
Forest landscape restoration in Northern Ethiopia
Forest landscape restoration in Northern Ethiopia
Forest landscape restoration in Northern Ethiopia

During 2021, we had planned to provide materials or stock for income-generating schemes to 1443 households in Tigray. Owing to the war and the resulting mobility restrictions and market closures, we were able to support only 46% of the households - but the good news is that the income that families are receiving from our livelihood improvement packages is increasing! 

Baseline data is collected from a minimum of 10% of the participants to monitor the impact of the schemes, and in 2021 this data was collected from a sample of participants who had been involved since 2018. Households who have achieved sales are receiving an average income up to 9315.49 ETB (about $207US) from poultry and sheep per year and 6550 ETB ($146US) from beekeeping! 

This very promising start is already a great boost in a region where the daily income is below US$1.9 per day for more than half of the families. Not only that, but individuals who started 2018 are getting more income in 2021 than those who started in 2019 and 2020, indicating that the income they got is increasing over time. This could be mainly from the increase in technical efficiency and marketable stock size.

Over in Amhara, as the project begins its scaling up in West Gojjam province (Jabi-Tehnan district), we’re continuing to monitor the planting that was done in the first phase in Machakel (East Gojjam). Vegetation inventories and household surveys of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 were conducted, and survival rate was determined based on the permanent plots established in each respective year.

The target was to obtain a 80% seedling survival rate after 3 years for both communal and agroforestry areas. On communal restoration sites the result revealed an average survival rate of 92.8%! The inventory showed a higher survival rate of exotic species compared to indigenous species, with an average survival rate of 95.6% for exotic and 91.1% for indigenous species. The highest survival rate (98.5%) was registered for Acacia decurrens and the lowest (88.6%) – still high! – was for Faidherbia albida seedlings.

On agroforestry sites, the average survival rate of seedlings was 95.1%. The survival rate of native cash crop Rhamnus prinoides was highest (97%), followed by Olea europea (95.7%). Survival rates of 95.2%, 89.6%, 88.2%, and 86.9% were recorded for Coffea arabica, Cordia africana, Carica papaya and Sesbania sesban respectively.

These fantastic survival rates can be attributed to quality seedling production (healthy and vigorous), careful species selection for the local agro-ecological conditions, the suitability of the restoration sites, well-timed planting, good planting techniques and good seedling care, both during transportation and handling and on the sites after planting by protection from weeds and grazing.

Thank you for helping to make all this possible!

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Restoration cleans water!
Restoration cleans water!

We know how many hectares of land we’ve restored so far and how many trees are growing, but it’s always a real boost to see some visible impacts of our restoration. This image shows the same stream before and after passing through one of our restoration sites in Amhara, Ethiopia

The photo on the left shows that there is soil erosion upstream: the water is dark with sediment, heavy rainfall having disturbed the soil and carried it into the stream.You can clearly see the improvement in water quality in the second image, which was taken approximately 75 metres downstream from the first one in our 6 hectare Deba Meret planting site in East Gojjam, where restoration started in 2017. The growing trees have slowed down the heavy rain, helping it to soak gently into the ground without causing soil erosion. This has had a tremendous impact for the 26 families who rely on this stream for washing and for water for their livestock.

Our Amhara project with THP is now entering phase two and expanding to ten times its current size into Jabi-Tehnan district in neighbouring West Gojjam, where it will restore 10,000 hectares of degraded land and open forest, introduce agroforestry practices on 925 ha of smallholder farmlands and involve the 14 villages of the Gewocha forest area to improve their self-reliance, livelihoods and forest governance. Seedlings are now being raised in nurseries for our new beneficiary farmers from the villages in Jabi-Tehnan in readiness for the 2022 planting season.

In Tigray, the seedling survival survey for the seedlings planted in previous years has shown some outstanding results: 94.05% for seedlings planted in 2018, 96.53% for 2019 and a whopping 99.12% for 2020! In this dry environment where survival can be as low as 60% this is an incredible result!   

This year over 3893 ha is under restoration. Seven nurseries are raising 711,200 seedlings for enrichment and gap filling, and the majority have been planted out by the time of writing. The agroforestry program - where farmers plant high value fruits and other shrubs around their farms - saw 2580 households plant 47,794 seedlings around their homes. Water and soil conservation structures are a huge part of the restoration work - they are built before the rainy season to hold water during the harsh dry season and prevent soil erosion. This year ten water harvesting structures, 400 deep trenches and 123 loose stone check dams were built in the restoration sites.  

The civil unrest in Tigray is challenging for our Desa’a project. According to the regional Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development (BoARD), 237 tree nurseries in Tigray have been either fully or partially destroyed as a result of the ongoing conflict in the region, but fortunately the nurseries around our project in Desa’a are among those that have survived.  

The livelihoods programme, which generates sustainable incomes for the community, has been able to make some progress while the security situation improved: 4000 chickens were distributed to 400 beneficiaries in the villages of Kalamin, Golgolnaele and Hawile and to start them off well, each chicken came with its own 5kg of food! The beekeeping program was boosted by the success of our new queen-rearing hub that supplied 34 of the 149 bee colonies to 70 families. 

We had hoped to reach hundreds more families with the beekeeping and poultry program, but civil unrest has meant we refocused to prioritise immediate needs. Through a special fundraising campaign we have supported the 23 000 families to secure their harvest. The great news is that many of them have already been able to start harvesting the wheat and barley we were able to provide to them all by August this year.

If you’d like to help, go to https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/relief-fund-avoiding-starvation-for-110000-people/

This lady is taking seedlings to plant at home
This lady is taking seedlings to plant at home
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Preparing pits for planting
Preparing pits for planting

Since war broke out in Tigray in late 2020, the communities and our team have faced considerable challenges. We are delighted to report that not only are they safe, but that despite the restrictions to travel, communication and transport of goods and materials, there has been amazing restoration progress made. The security situation has also improved in recent weeks.

Since January 2021, a further 3632 hectares of forest - a significant overachievement on our original goal of 2800 hectares - has been identified and mapped for restoration. Preparation and planting activity is currently underway. Of these 3632 hectares, conservation zones cover around one third (1127 ha). As well as supporting new trees to grow through ANR, light planting will take place here. The buffer zones cover the remaining 2505 ha and will undergo more intensive planting and restoration including the construction of soil and water infrastructures. So far, 2242 deep trenches covering 9km have been constructed and can hold 6726m³ of rainwater! Stone and soil bunds to reduce soil erosion and filter the water have also been built, and the foundation work is underway to build two gabion check dams - small barriers made of gabion baskets bound together - to slow down water flow.

The rainy season is several weeks late this year, and planting has just begun. Seven tree nurseries are preparing a total of 711,200 seedlings and 275,960 planting pits with micro-basins have been dug in critical zones to conserve rainwater for the new seedlings.

Since January, over 350,000 seedlings planted in 2020 were watered to sustain their growth during the dry season, and nearly 118,000 trees have been pruned. Pruning is an essential part of helping the trees grow faster and has an extra benefit: sustainably harvested firewood. Over 3500 households received the pruned branches that they can use or sell for extra income that could earn a family an extra US$37. It took almost 56,000 donkey loads to transport!. 

While progress on restoration has been able to take place, much of the livelihoods programme for generating sustainable income is delayed due to restricted access to local markets to procure equipment and animals (sheep and poultry) while the security situation is unstable. Nevertheless, 1449 households in 4 villages have received solar lamps, and the ‘queen-rearing hub’ we’re establishing to tackle the shortage of bee colonies is well underway. One hectare of land was officially granted to WeForest from Atsbi district, and the site has been prepared with the planting of bee forage species and other trees. Beehives will be installed, together with storage areas and shade, and then the process of splitting existing colonies into two or more hives and rearing new queens for each new colony will begin! 

As our project here is long-term until 2030 and WeForest is committed to the communities and activities, any shortfalls in timing or progress will be evened out once the planned activities are able to resume in earnest. Though the core livelihoods programmes were delayed, the communities here were nevertheless the focus of some more immediate and short-term support this year: visit the GlobalGiving page here to find out more.

Soil & water conservation structures are essential
Soil & water conservation structures are essential
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Grading seedlings in the nursery, Amhara
Grading seedlings in the nursery, Amhara

Northern Ethiopia is facing more challenges than usual. In addition to the outbreak of COVID, a war between government-led forces and those in our project regions has been creating significant unrest since late 2020. Thankfully, our project teams and partners are safe. 

Since most of the project activities in Amhara took place before war broke out, there was great progress last year. 306,209 seedlings that were raised in two nurseries were planted, meaning that we exceeded our restoration target by almost 30%. A survey of seedlings already growing in communal lands showed good initial survival rates of 93%. And with another 896 households joining the agroforestry programme here, we are meeting our goal of engaging over 50% of all families in the villages. 

In Desa’a, achieving our restoration targets last year is exceptional considering the circumstances. 3000 ha was brought under restoration management. This is almost double our original target due to successful sign-off of local by-laws and strong community mobilisation. 12 nurseries raised 917,512 tree seedlings this year, and 683,867 were planted in the new restoration sites.

The arrival of COVID meant that restrictions on movement affected staff travel to the project sites, but discussions with the government led to a permit being granted. Planting, soil and water harvesting construction could continue by following shift patterns and social distancing, though training and consultation meetings were postponed until later in the year. COVID’s biggest impact on the project was the postponement of some planned livelihoods support, as sheep are obtained from local markets that were closed. Beehive procurement was also delayed, as were the cookstoves and solar lamps. This was compounded by the outbreak of war. 

We have not seen the end of the trouble here, and remain in close contact with the teams. They can see first-hand that the people here will not make it unless the next harvest is secured. With two million dollars we can buy enough seeds and equipment for over 110,000 people so they can plant in May, harvest in November and feed their families for at least a year. 

If you’d like to help, visit this GlobalGiving page.

Fieldwork in Desa'a
Fieldwork in Desa'a

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Organization Information

WeForest

Location: Brussels - Belgium
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @WeForest_org
Project Leader:
Louise Tideman
Brussels, Brussels Belgium
$31,072 raised of $50,000 goal
 
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