BY SOLOMON DIBABA         

Round four of Ethiopia’s national greening initiative is expected to kick off in a couple of days which will be spearheaded by Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed and high ranking federal and regional government officials.

This year, the nation intends to plant more than 6 billion tree seedlings which among others include fruit trees. Ethiopia has already shared more than 1 billion trees with the neighboring countries: Eritrea, Kenya and Djibouti as a pilot program for greening Africa pursuant to Agenda 2063.

Despite conspiracies that have been going on from multiple fronts to disrupt the normal development programs of the country, Ethiopia has completed all the necessary preparation to once again dress the country with tree seedlings in the 4th round of national tree planting campaign due to start in a couple of days. Ethiopia has planned to plant 20 billion trees in four years, of which 16 billion trees have been planted over the last three years. The nation expects to effectively hit the national target this year by planting additional 6 billion trees in the rural and urban settings of the country.

Ethiopia has formulated the Climate Resilient Green Economic Development (CRGE) Policy and Strategy.  This was a bold initiative that was taken by Ethiopia after a detailed research on the state of affairs of the country’s economic situation. Fossil fuel based energy utilization is proved to be not only expensive, which consumes a huge amount of the country’s net income but it also contributed to the escalation pollution particularly in the urban centers of the country. Fluctuations in global oil prices have continued to drain the hard earned foreign exchange earnings of nations.

This is currently evident by the Russia- Ukraine conflict, which has resulted in economic slowdown throughout the world. So, present global and regional state of affairs and future projections requires nations to search for renewable energy and other options to sustain their livelihoods.

CRGE, apart from its national significance as a viable and sustainable economic strategy, it also contributes to Africa’s regional development strategy as it is envisaged in Agenda 2063 and to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which was deliberated on various UN sponsored forums.

Ethiopia’s economic development program was redesigned based on agricultural modernization which would promote livestock and food production, effectively protecting and reestablishing the forest resource of the country, developing renewable energy resources to produce electric power for expansion of industries.

The CRGE is based on turning the natural capital into other forms of capital without negatively interfering into the natural balance of the eco system but in fact contributing to the natural balance of nature

In terms of fighting global warming through participatory national soil and water conservation campaigns, every year millions of the Ethiopian rural populations are engaged in massive rehabilitation of degraded lands and mountain ranges of the country.

As this campaign is conducted every year, Ethiopia is making commendable contributions in reversing the hazards of climate change way before the international community had started taking actions on the issue. The country has also been conducting a number of projects aimed at reducing carbon emission at the national level. This among other things included the development of windfarms, geo-thermal resources and solar energy projects.

To provide deep and scientific explanations, REDD+ is one of the four pillars of the CRGE strategy with an abatement potential of 130 MtCO2  and contributing significantly towards achieving a carbon neutral economy by 2030. Ethiopia initiated a readiness preparation proposal (R-PP) in April 2010 and got it approved in October 2012. The country obtained a readiness fund of USD 3.6 million, from the FCPF of the World Bank. Additional USD 10 million readiness supports were provided by the government of Norway and UK with the World Bank as financial trustee. Ethiopia’s REDD+ readiness phase was launched in January 2013.

The scope of REDD+ in Ethiopia will include activities aimed at  reducing emission from deforestation; reducing forest degradation, forest conservation, sustainable forest management, and enhancement of carbon stocks. As part of the earlier activities of afforestation and reforestation (A/R) indifferent parts of Ethiopia, the ‘+’ aspect of REDD+ was given special attention in future activities. A/R activities that will be included in the REDD+ mechanism (as carbon stock enhancement) provided incentives to regenerate forests in previously deforested areas of Ethiopia.

The last three national campaigns were a dress rehearsals for the fourth round of greening the country with better preparedness and precision. In accordance to the intended nationally determined contribution issued by the Government of Ethiopia, the country intends to limit net greenhouse gas to 145 Mt Co2e by the year 2030.

The current campaign in which more than 30 million Ethiopians would participate coincides with the third filling of GERD which is one of the major projects intended to promote Ethiopia’s green economy policy. Despite the conspiracies being conducted by Egypt and Sudan with their anti-GERD partners across the world, Ethiopia has successfully managed to generate the first 175 MW of electric power from GERD this year.

What major economic advantages can Ethiopia get from implementing the national tree planting campaign?  A few of them can be mentioned. Climate change has always threatened the food security efforts of the country through interchangeable occurrence of drought and flooding. By regulating the rainfall pattern in the country, extensive forest coverage will help to ascertain better precipitation for the development of the agriculture sector as the main source of food in Ethiopia.

Planting trees, if properly managed can provide employment opportunities both for rural and urban youth as a means of generating income for their livelihood. For instance, if the youth are organized into cooperatives, they can benefit from the economic potentials of tree plantations.  

Millions of children in Ethiopia are still suffering from micro-nutrient malnutrition which could have been avoided by improving the dietary intake of children through supplementary feeding of fruits and vegetables. Planting fruit trees at the backyard can at least help to generate income for poorer families and can also help to improve family food security status.  

This is what the prime minster has demonstrated to the public. The premier has been encouraging citizens to engage in backyard gardening as part of household level efforts to supplement to the dietary needs of the population and for possible income generation. He launched a huge vegetable gardening program at the national palace and shared the outputs with needy families in Addis Ababa as a token of a model initiative for citizens.

Tree planting has proved to be an important contributor to the restoration of surface water resources including springs and dried up brooks. Restoration of wild life resources is another advantage that newly planted trees can bring in the long run.

Growing trees in the highland areas of the country are instrumental for soil and water conservation schemes and watershed management in areas closer to the country’s major hydro-electric dams. Tree planting is a fundamental activity that can effectively abolish the alienation between man and nature.

As part of the implementation of the CRGE policy and strategy, GERD was commissioned in the same year in which the CRGE policy and Strategy was issued. The major elements of the county’s carbon free economy targeted for 2030 is therefore not limited to the afforestation program but also includes developing a carbon free energy sector that would be the basis for energizing the entire economic sectors in the country.

With the acceleration of the national reform program and the launching and implementation of a home grown the ten year national economic plan, the contributions of tree planting to the achievements of plan targets will be enormous.

CRGE policy and Strategy is aligned with Agenda 2063 and is expected to contribute to African economic integration in which Ethiopia is contributing its part in developing renewable energy resources that the country will share with the rest of Africa. As Ethiopia’s green initiative is on the right track, regional and international support is required for common destiny.

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