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The planting of many millions of trees and bush seedlings has prevented an environmental catastrophe in Abrha Weatsbha in the Tigray region. The surrounding environment is unrecognizable: 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.

Data show that fifteen years ago, the villages around Abrha Weatsbha in northern Ethiopia were on the point of being abandoned: the hillsides were barren, and the communities, plagued by floods and droughts, needed constant food aid. Additionally, the soil was being washed away.

This project of “re-greening” of the area, that has achieved in few years important results, will be replicated across one sixth of Ethiopia, an area the size of England and Wales.

This plan will try to significantly reduce soil erosion, increasing food security and adapting to climate change. Moreover, experts have stressed that this ambitious plan will increase the amount of food grown in this area prone to drought and famine.

Researches have explained that vast areas of Ethiopia and the Sahel were devastated by severe droughts and overgrazing by animals in the 1960s and 1970s. People have faced an alarming drop in rainfall, compelled in this way to extend the land they cultivated, leading to massive destruction and an environmental crisis across the Sahel. The project in the Tigray region, where over 224,000 hectares of land has now been restored, stresses that recovery of vegetation in dry-land areas can be very fast.

In order to obtain concrete benefits, the farmers have turned to “agro-ecology” to combine crops and trees on the same pieces of land.

Also, the plan has involved communities building miles of terraces and low walls, or bunds, to hold back rainwater from slopes, including the closure of large areas of bare land to allow natural regeneration of trees and vegetation. Tens of thousands of kilometres of rock bunds and terraces have been constructed, often on steep slopes, experts say.

The Ethiopian commitment to restore 15m hectares of degraded land represents the largest project established at the end of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon’s New York climate summit last month, where governments, companies and civil society groups agreed to restore 350m hectares of deforested landscapes, an area the size of India, by 2030.

Other countries such as Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Colombia, Guatemala and Chile have followed the Ethiopian example. Additionally, many other states are expected to follow before the Paris climate talks in December 2015. Also, the restoration of degraded land is expected to qualify for carbon credits.

In this context, Africa, with help from the World Bank, the UK government and development groups as Oxfam and World Vision, has been defined as the leader in restoring the world’s estimated 2bn hectares of degraded lands.

A recent report by the International Food Policy Research Institute has shown that the result has been extra 500,000 tonnes of food grown in this country facing the fastest growing population in the world. In addition to that, the plan has resulted in an increase in biodiversity and incomes.

There are a lot of inspirational examples in Africa. Studies have also revealed that in Burkina Faso food production has grown about 80,000 tons a year: enough to feed an extra 500,000 people, experts add.

According to the director of International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) nature-based solutions group in Geneva, these examples show that well-managed ecosystems represent concrete and effective solution for biodiversity and food security, as well as water supplies and climate change.

Furthermore, the Green Belt Movement (GBM) international director has argued that these measures will be vital both for feeding fast-growing populations and adapting to climate change: the re-greening projects could play a key role for the solution to these problems.


The gLAWcal Team

EPSEI project

Friday, 31 October 2014

(Source: The Guardian)