Posted on :Monday , 12th September 2016
The increase in global warming, soil erosion and depletion of soil fertility, air and water pollution, soaring temper atures and weather patterns as well as the ozone depletion are among the major issues of concern in this modern age. Forests play an important role in curbing climate change and its effects. The destruction and degradation of forests contribute to the problem through the release of CO2. But the planting of new forests can help mitigate against climate change by removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
Forests [Trees] are integral parts of humans' culture and tradition. People in many traditions believe that trees are an immense source of religious life, peace and tranquility. Besides being expressions of sacred life in various traditions, trees release oxygen, beautify the environment, provide shade and shelter, help capture rain water, support bio-diversity and etc. They have the power to free the mind and give mental satisfaction. Forests are further the homes for so many indigenous species which maintain balance in the eco-system. They are indeed guardians of life on the planet.
While planet earth has already lost significant amount of its forest coverage, various governmental and non-governmental institutions and volunteers around the world are striving to make positive difference by planting and protecting indigenous trees. Ethiopia has a long history of tree planting. According to historical records, afforestation in Ethiopia started in the early 1400s by the order of King Zera-Yakob (1434-1468). Modern tree planting through newly introduced tree species (mainly Australian Eucalyptus) started in 1895 when Emperor Menelik II (1888-1892) looked into solutions for alleviating shortage of firewood and construction wood in the capital, Addis Ababa. However, forestry (afforestation), along with the agricultural sector, has been neglected in the past decades. It was neglected to the point of non-existence. While some 30 percent of Ethiopia's landmass was covered with forest in the late nineteenth century, in 1991, the forest coverage was significantly reduced to three per cent.
In 1992, immediately after the downfall of the military regime, the Transitional Government recognized that protection of natural resources should be the foundation for realizing sustainable development. Yet, there was not a comprehensive federal policy that covers either land use or forest management. Proclamation No. 94/1994 that was issued to provide for the conservation, development and utilization of forests is currently serving as the forest policy statement of the country.
Mainly, during the leadership of the former Prime Minister of FDRE, Meles Zenawi, the pioneer Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) was launched in Durban, South Africa in 2011, with the intent of supporting the government's vision of attaining a middle income economy with low carbon growth by 2025, which complements the current Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP).
The government of Ethiopia clearly articulated the seriousness of forest destruction in the Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) document and the solution taken was reducing the demand for fuel wood by disseminating fuel efficient stoves; increasing afforestation and reforestations schemes; and promoting area closure via rehabilitation of degraded pastureland and farmland are forwarded as a viable strategy.
The particular concern of the Ethiopian government regarding forestry issues is shown by the approval by the council of ministers of the forest development, conservation and utilization policy and strategy in 2007 followed by the approval of a forest development, conservation and utilization proclamation by the House of Peoples' Representatives.
Due to the fact that farmer participatory natural resource conservation, reforestation and other related activities have been carried out during the past decade, Ethiopia's forest coverage has shown some significant increase. According to recent data, Ethiopia's forest coverage has reached 15 percent.
The planting and establishment of trees on degraded land were the priority tasks for Regional and Local Forest, Environment Protection and Climate Change Authorities in Ethiopia mostly in degraded and drought prone areas. Such urgent and progressive actions were taken in propagating, culti vating and domesticating indigenous trees and then planting and protecting in the past mostly 7-8 years. This highly motivates the farmers to be massively engaged in tree plantation every year in winter season and as a result they have taken this as a trend.
It has been observed that environmental catastrophe has been averted following the planting of many millions of trees and bush seedlings. Amazingly, degraded lands that were dry have been recharged, the soil is in better shape, fruit trees grow in the valleys and the hillsides are green again in most parts of environmentally eroded areas. The most ambitious attempt yet to reduce soil erosion, increase food security and adapt to climate change is expected to vastly increase the amount of food grown in the most drought- and famine-prone areas of northern and eastern parts of Ethiopia. Large areas of Ethiopia were devastated by successive droughts this year. Even though drought has been happening due to global climate change, increasing forest coverage by planting trees would minimize its impacts significantly.
The interventions made as per the directions have bore fruits that the forest coverage has started to grow. The total forest coverage of Ethiopia has tripled in size since 2000 as a result of large-scale reforestation campaigns. This shows that forest conservation is getting more attention in Ethiopia, from the highest level of government to the community level.
Community Based Participatory deve lopment is the heart of each and every work of the government and the farmers have also accepted it with open arms. Ethiopian remains firmly committed to the idea of conserving and protection while at the same time ensuing economic growth and development. The tremendous progress made in expanding the forest coverage to 15 percent is the latest and remarkable success in this regard.