A national strategy to restore Ethiopia’s drylands

A national strategy to restore Ethiopia’s drylands

Ethiopia - 21 July, 2022

The restoration of Ethiopia’s drylands has the potential to improve local livelihoods while contributing to climate change mitigation. In 2021, TBI’s partner in Ethiopia — PENHA — got government agencies and other stakeholders to collaborate and agree on a national drylands restoration strategy, laying a firm foundation for ambitious nationwide efforts.

Ethiopia’s drylands make up much of the country’s land mass, and are mostly inhabited by pastoralists. Over the last decades, these areas have suffered severe degradation caused by deforestation, agricultural expansion and overgrazing, in combination with climate change. There is an enormous potential to restore these areas in ways that contribute to local livelihoods while also helping to mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon.

So far, however, restoration initiatives have been hampered by a lack of coordination across different government institutions and by a failure to harmonize policies across sectors. Moreover, restoration programmes have been based on area exclosures, which restrict communities’ access to and use of dry forests and woodlands, limiting their incomes and ability to maintain restoration efforts.

Effective restoration requires a better strategy, and increased coordination and collaboration across local, regional and national levels. This is a major challenge in a conflict-torn country with a long tradition of centralized and top-down policy making, with limited space for civil society actors. In 2021, TBI work in Ethiopia therefore focussed on research, raising awareness, and getting all relevant parties together to develop a common vision and strategy.

Despite the ongoing war in the Tigray Region, the Pastoral and Environmental Network in the Horn of Africa (PENHA), TBI’s partner in Ethiopia, was able to continue its research and policy work at the national level. They carried out a study that provided a detailed review of the links between landscape restoration and Ethiopia’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), with a focus on drylands. They also conducted a study of the frankincense value chain, emphasizing the importance of community forest ownership and management in establishing inclusive and sustainable value chains that boost local incomes while restoring the landscape.

PENHA’s policy work in 2021 focussed on developing a national dryland restoration strategy. In April they organized a national workshop with representatives from the Environment, Forestry and Climate Change Commission, research institutes, NGOs and government agencies from the six regional states where drylands predominate. Based on the workshop, a book was published, providing an overview of challenges and opportunities for restoration in Ethiopia. Moreover, the workshop resulted in a joint declaration on a shared restoration vision, and the creation of task teams to work on a draft national restoration strategy that promotes the integration of trees, agriculture, water and livelihoods. By the end of 2021, the draft strategy was ready and agreed upon by all stakeholders, including all relevant government departments.

The strategy provides a framework for the elaboration of tailored regional action plans in 2022, and will also support the implementation of Ethiopia’s NDC. It represents a major breakthrough, as it is the first time that all relevant parties agree on a strategy that will restore Ethiopia’s drylands and benefit the people who live there. 

stamp-01.pngThis article is part of the TBI Annual review 2021,
due for release in July 2022

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