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Farm Africa and SOS Sahel Ethiopia launch major forest conservation programme

24 October 2022

Farm Africa and SOS Sahel Ethiopia launch major forest conservation programme

Farm Africa and SOS Sahel Ethiopia have launched a major new programme working to sustainably conserve the natural forest, biodiversity, and ecosystem in the Bale Eco-region and associated landscapes in Guji and Borena zones of Oromia regional state in Ethiopia. 

The four-year programme, called Forests for Sustainable Development (FSD), funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Ethiopia, aims to reduce deforestation and biodiversity loss, while also improving the household incomes and resilience of the local community, and improving governance for integrated landscape management.

A launch event for the programme is being held today on Monday 24 October, 2022 in Adama town at Caneth (Rift Valley) Hotel in the presence of representatives from the community, donor, regional government, non-governmental organisations, research institutions, senior Farm Africa and SOS Sahel Ethiopia staff, and the media.

The programme will be implemented in collaboration with the regional government to align with the Oromia Forested Landscape Programme (OFLP). The £9.6 million programme will reach a total of 55,677 forest-dependent households in 20 woredas.

Training will be provided to households to increase awareness of the impact of population growth on health and the environment, focusing on the pressure the increasing population places on forests.

The programme will develop economic opportunities for women, young people, and forest enterprises to earn a living from sustainable activities such as the production and marketing of forest products such as wild coffee and the development of climate-smart agricultural enterprises.

Through these businesses and additional partnership agreements, the programme will support the forest communities to generate income amounting to an estimated £1.7 million.

It will ensure that knowledge management and coordination systems are operational across the governance levels from the kebeles upwards to regional and federal levels, so that sustainable forestry practices can be rolled out at a wider scale.

Shewit Emmanuel, Ethiopia Country Director for Farm Africa, commented: “As agricultural production increases, precious forest is being lost as smallholder farmers and forest communities clear land so they can grow more food and benefit from virgin soils that have not been exhausted. This deforestation results not only in carbon emissions, but a loss of biodiversity, threats to water sources and rapid decline in agricultural productivity as soils are eroded. The FSD project will work to benefit both people and planet by developing sustainable livelihoods that reduce communities’ need to fell trees.”

Mari Martinsen, Climate Counsellor at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Addis Ababa, added: “Natural forests play a key role in biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation. We are proud to fund this programme, which will significantly scale up previous interventions to ensure that the important forests of Bale can continue to deliver vital benefits to climate, nature and people into the future, and at the same time provide sustainable livelihood options to people living in and around the forests.”

The new programme will draw on Farm Africa and SOS Sahel Ethiopia’s expertise in integrated landscape management (ILM), an approach that integrates natural resource stewardship with opportunities for income generation and effective mechanisms for informed, multi-stakeholder landscape management.

The approach encompasses the sustainable management of forests, rangeland and water resources, along with support to communities to increase the productivity of existing crop and livestock activities and build their links to markets for forest and other agricultural products.

The FSD programme builds on the success of previous programmes implemented by Farm Africa, SOS Sahel Ethiopia and their partners, which have enhanced conservation and forest protection by forest-dependent local communities in the entire Bale Eco-region (BER) and laid robust foundations for the sustainable management of forest resources through Participatory Forest Management Cooperatives (PFMCs).

As longstanding partners to the people and Government of Ethiopia, the organisations worked together from 2006 to 2020 to implement two phases of a REDD+ programme in the Bale Eco-region.

The REDD+ programme supported forest communities to develop sustainable livelihoods and reduce carbon emissions from deforestation by 10.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide between 2012 and 2019, and to generate income through the sale of carbon credits on the voluntary carbon market. 

The two organisations are also working with Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), International Water Management Institute (IWMI), and Population, Health, Environment Ethiopia Consortium (PHE EC) implementing the Bale Eco-region (BER) Phase II Project, funded by the European Union and Jersey Overseas Aid.

The project is a follow-up to a pilot project funded by the European Union’s Supporting Horn of Africa Resilience (SHARE) initiative, implemented by the same consortium from 2014 to 2018 in the Bale Eco-region.

The first phase piloted the eco-regional development approach in seven woredas and supported the development of the Bale Eco-region Development Framework including the preparation of the 10-year general management plan for the Bale Mountains National Park (BMNP).

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