Global Geopolitics & Political Economy / IPS
By Omer Redi *
ADDIS ABABA, Nov 9, 2010 (IPS/IFEJ) – It has been decades since the people of the Humbo Woreda have been self-sufficient in food. A Clean Development Mechanism project – Ethiopia’s first – centred on the reforestation of the plateau at the heart of the district, is restoring the local environment – and sustainable livelihoods along with it.
The Humbo plateau, some 400 kilometres south of Ethiopia’s capital, is in the most densely populated part of Ethiopia. It’s a dry and dusty district that has experienced frequent drought; average rainfall is 800-900 mm and temperatures routinely rise to 40 degrees. The stripping of trees has made the low-lying areas susceptible to flooding.
But a Clean Development Mechanism project initiated by international development organisation World Vision has organised 40,000 people in the worst-affected areas to regenerate and protect 2,700 hectares of forest land. The CDM project will bring in at least $726,000 over the next ten years, in addition to permitting the sustainable harvesting of trees from 2020.
Damaging the forest
"Constant cutting for fuel wood, charcoal, grazing and clearing trees for farm lands completely destroyed the forest," said Beyene Adebo, a farmer in Humbo.
This turned Humbo’s once dense forest into arid, barren land, especially after the 1984 famine in Ethiopia – when people turned to cutting trees down as a source of income after their farms failed to produce.
"Following this, drought and famine became common. The rains disappeared and we couldn’t harvest as much from our land as we used to," Beyene added.
Two decades of rehabilitation efforts by World Vision Ethioipia (WVE) – water supply, food assistance, health, agriculture and environmental projects – failed to permanently address the problems of the drought-prone region.
The seven worst-affected kebeles (Ethiopia’s smallest administrative unit) suffered from aridity, erosion, soil infertility and depleted levels of groundwater.
"The biggest challenge was that after all those investments, we could not see significant changes in these villages vulnerable to drought," said Hailu Tefera, head of WVE’s Climate Change Programmes department.
Working with two colleagues, Assefa Tofu and the Australian Tony Rinaudo, Haile developed the Humbo Community-based Natural Regeneration Project.
A technique known as Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration, perfected in Niger in the 1980s, is at the centre of the regeneration project. FMNR relies wherever possible on nurturing the shoots that spring back from the stumps left after the indigenous tree cover is cut down.
Typically the living stumps will put out anywhere from 10 to 50 stems that farmers traditionally cut down when preparing their fields. Nurturing these instead has rapidly – and cheaply – restored tree cover in Humbo. Only about a tenth of the plateau was so badly degraded that seedlings had to be brought in from elsewhere.
From the project’s inception in 2006, funds from World Vision have supported farmers’ efforts to make a living without further harming the trees. Farmers raise livestock and poultry, as well as produce vegetables and grain. Those with no viable land got skills training in things like tailoring.
The demand for charcoal and fuel wood has been reduced by the use of thousands of energy-saving stoves provided by WVE.
Before the project’s launch, the plateau formally belonged to no one, contributing to its degradation.
"So we discussed with the villagers as well as local and regional administrations where we agreed to divide the plateau among the seven kebeles that surround the site and reforest it with community ownership," Hailu told IPS.
The 4,200 aid-dependent families, registered under the seven Forestry Development and Protection Cooperatives, are entitled to harvest grass for animal fodder from the reforested areas, as well as fuel wood from pruned branches in the forest now protected by the community.
The plateau is now totally covered with native trees, some of them as high as 1.5 metres. The rehabilitated forest was registered in December 2009 as an Afforestation Reforestation Project after it was validated by JACO CDM, accredited validators.
Its carbon stock was assessed at 7,000 tonnes and the World Bank purchased a first carbon credit in October 2010 for $34,000.
Beyene is coordinator of one of the seven cooperatives. His group has 839 members and is responsible for 1,000 hectares of the forest.
"We have seen good results and hope to see more," he said.
He said that after decades of disappointment, farms in Humbo have in the past two years begun to produce better harvests.
"This has led to an attitude change towards the forest, bringing back our forefathers’ culture of protecting trees," Beyene added.
Benefits return to project
Money from the carbon credit scheme will be divided among cooperatives in proportion to the share of the forest they look after. The money will be spent on the project and community development priorities.
The World Bank has committed to buying $726,000 worth of carbon credits over the next decade at a fixed price of four dollars per tonne of stored CO2.
"This is part our effort, as international development agency, to reduce the carbon footprint in the world," Edward Dwumfour, Senior Natural Resource and Environment Management Specialist at World Bank, told IPS.
"We use the money we received from developed countries and private firms in these countries, who are also the emitters, to buy this carbon credit."
World Vision is searching for additional buyers in the voluntary carbon market to earn further income.
* This story is part of a series of features on biodiversity by IPS, CGIAR/Biodiversity International, IFEJ and UNEP/CBD, members of Communicators for Sustainable Development (http://www.complusalliance.org)
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