Regreening for Food Security, Climate Change and Poverty Reduction Conference in Addis Ababa

April 25, 2012

Two days filled with reviews of practical initiatives in sustainable land management, forestry and biodiversity conservation. Over 100 delegates gathered to hear the achievements of, challenges faced by and recommendations of various organisations. I will share just a taste of what we heard and experienced.

The Orthodox Church has traditionally practiced the protection of forests around churches. In highly degraded areas of northern Ethiopia, these remnant forests retain high levels of biodiversity and have become the source of seed for restoring indigenous forests. The remnant forests are currently threatened by grazing pressures, illegal wood harvesting, encroachment by farmers and burning but the church is working to protect them, increase the protected areas for forest restoration and develop biodiversity corridors.

The World Agroforestry Centre is promoting Evergreen Agriculture  which incorporates agroforestry into Conservation Agriculture. The inclusion of Faidherbia albida (an acacia-like, Nitrogen-fixing tree) into farming systems has been especially valuable, doubling and tripling crop yields in Zambia. It increases soil fertility and organic matter, soil water infiltration and retention, while diversifying incomes (providing bee and livestock forage), stabilising land and decreasing erosion. The Ethiopian government has a goal to assist farmers to plant 100 million Faidherbia trees on their farms.

From left: Ethiopian Orthodox Church Forest; Faidherbia albida (previously called Acacia albida – Gao in Niger); Tony Rinaudo from World Vision Australia

Tony and some World Vision Ethiopia colleagues talked about Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) in Niger and Humbo, Ethiopia. This is a revolutionary new concept to many with the potential to regenerate forests and trees on farms on a broad scale with much lower costs and higher success rates than by tree planting.

The Ethio Wetlands and Natural Resource Association emphasises an integrated approach to population, health and environment. They have benefitted over 6,000 households with soil and water conservation structures, building the capacity of watershed management committees which have developed local bylaws, providing 104 safe water points and 102 peer educators to work with community members on family planning.

Many organisations have been planting trees with varied success rates. The trend is to move away from top down approaches, which tend to lock communities out of protected areas, and to move towards participatory approaches where communities are organised into cooperatives which care for forests, create appropriate bylaws and work in partnership with local governments.

The challenges are many and range from the thinking that agroforestry approaches are too slow in realising economic returns (which is not true in the case of FMNR); poor application of government policy; threats from major investors, livestock, population increase; shortage of seeds and seedlings of desired tree species and other resources to inadequate market chains for rural communities.

Recommendations for scaling up successful regreening initiatives:

  • Form a network of individuals to lead, coordinate and direct agroforestry initiatives
  • Initiate a think tank of interested individuals and organisations to collate information on current initiatives and plan for future
  • Work with the Ministry of Agriculture on the direction of appropriate government leadership
  • Build capacity of communities and community committees/cooperatives
  • Move from sectoral to integrated approaches
  • Move to participatory and community managed approaches
  • Consult regularly with all stakeholders throughout intervention processes
  • Secure land tenure or user rights for communities
  • Build on traditional systems
  • Give church forests legal status
  • Expand the policy for every farming household to give 40 man days/year to include that pastoralists (herders) should give 40 man days/year/household to restoration of the grazing environment
  • Encourage herders to carry axes to remove invasive species.
  • Increase the implementation of FMNR to accelerate the rate of reforestation
  • Communicate and build synergies between the different groups working with different approaches.

I could write a lot more about this conference but need to post this blog before we head north where there may not be good internet access.

Until next time


Liz is travelling in Africa with her husband Tony Rinaudo, Natural Resource Management Advisor at World Vision Australia, encouraging communities, non-government organisations, governments, research organisations and others to scale up reforestation over large areas.