[permaculture] Permaculture Free Press | Regreening program to restore one-sixth of Ethiopia’s land

Lawrence London lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Thu Nov 13 12:44:56 EST 2014

Permaculture Free Press | Regreening program to restore one-sixth of
Ethiopia’s land

Tree and shrub-planting program has transformed degraded and deforested
land across Africa, with Ethiopia planning to restore a further 15m
hectares by 2030

Fifteen years years ago the villages around Abrha Weatsbha in northern
Ethiopia <http://www.theguardian.com/world/ethiopia> were on the point of
being abandoned. The hillsides were barren, the communities, plagued by
floods and droughts, needed constant food aid, and the soil was being
washed away.

Today, Abrha Weatsbha in the Tigray region is unrecognisable and an
environmental catastrophe has been averted following the planting of many
millions of tree and bush seedlings. Wells that were dry have been
recharged, the soil is in better shape, fruit trees grow in the valleys and
the hillsides are green again.

The “regreening” of the area, achieved in just a few years for little cost
by farming communities working together to close off large areas to
animals, save water and replant trees, is now to be replicated across one
sixth of Ethiopia – an area the size of England and Wales. 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 one of the most drought- and famine-prone areas of the world.

“Large areas of Ethiopia and the Sahel were devastated by successive
droughts and overgrazing by animals in the 1960s and 1970s,” says Chris
Reij, a researcher with the World Resources Institute in Washington.

“There was a significant drop in rainfall, people had to extend the land
they cultivated and this led to massive destruction and an environmental
crisis across the Sahel. But the experience of Tigray, where over 224,000
hectares of land has now been restored shows that recovery of vegetation in
dryland areas can be very fast. Tigray is now much more food secure than it
was 10 years ago. You really see the changes there,” he says.

Rather than just plant trees, which is notoriously unreliable and expensive
in dry land areas, the farmers have turned to “agro-ecology”, a way to
combine crops and trees on the same pieces of land.

In Tigray it has involved communities building miles of terraces and low
walls, or bunds, to hold back rainwater from slopes, the closure of large
areas of bare land to allow natural regeneration of trees and vegetation,
and the widespread planting of seedlings.

“The scale of restoration of degraded land in Tigray is possibly unmatched
anywhere else in the world. The people … may have moved more earth and
stone [in recent years] to reshape the surface of their land than the
Egyptians during thousands of years to build the pyramids,” says Reij.

“In the early 1990s every able-bodied villager in Tigray had to contribute
three months of labour to dig pits to save water, or to construct terraces
and bunds to stop water rushing off the hills. This was reduced later to 40
days a year and currently it is 20 days a year.

“Several hundred thousand hectares are now under ‘exclosures’ – degraded
areas in which no cutting and grazing is permitted. This allows the natural
regeneration of vegetation. Tens of thousands of kilometres of rock bunds
and terraces have been constructed, often on steep slopes,” he added.

Ethiopia’s pledge to restore a further 15m hectares of degraded land was
the largest of many made at the end of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon’s
New York climate summit last month
where governments, companies and civil society groups together agreed to
try to restore 350m hectares of deforested landscapes – an area the size of
India – by 2030.

*Almost all vegetation has been lost from this hillside due to
deforestation and overgrazing from cattle.Photograph: Aaron Minnick/WRI*

Commitments have now come from Uganda (2.5m hectares), Democratic Republic
of the Congo (8m hectares), Colombia (1m hectares), Guatemala (1.2m
hectares), and Chile (100,000 hectares). Many others are expected to follow
in the run-up to the Paris climate talks in December 2015 because the
restoration of degraded land is expected to qualify for carbon credits.

Africa <http://www.theguardian.com/world/africa>, with help from the World
Bank, the UK government and development groups like Oxfam and World Vision,
has emerged as the leader in restoring the world’s estimated 2bn hectares
of degraded lands.

According to Reij, a quiet revolution has seen over 200m trees planted and
5m hectares of degraded land regreened in Niger. The result, says a report
by the International Food policy research institute, has been extra 500,000
tonnes of food grown in the country with the fastest growing population in
the world, as well as an increase in biodiversity and incomes.

In Burkina Faso where 2-300,000 hectares of land has been regreened, food
production has grown about 80,000 tons a year – enough to feed an extra
500,000 people.

“There are a lot of inspirational examples in Africa. In Tanzania 500,000
hectares of land has been restored. What this shows is that well-managed
ecosystems are good for biodiversity as well as for food security, water
supplies and climate change,” said Stewart Maginnis, director of
International Union for Conservation
<http://www.theguardian.com/environment/conservation> of Nature’s (IUCN)
nature-based solutions group in Geneva.

Increasing the rate of restoration of degraded lands will be vital both for
feeding fast-growing populations and adapting to climate change, says Green
Belt Movement (GBM) international director, Pauline Kamau.

“Africa is already experiencing some of the most dramatic extreme
temperature events ever seen. Without action to reduce emissions, average
annual temperatures on the continent are likely to rise 3-4C by the end of
the century and [there could be] a 30% reduction in rainfall in sub Saharan

“We know that regreening could be a key part of the solution to these
problems. Agriculture, forestry and other land use changes accounts for
nearly 25% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Restoring degraded lands
can both help rein in warming and adapt to higher temperatures,” she said.

Source – The Guardian

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