Four Years Into ‘Ethiopia Green Legacy Initiative’; It Has Succeeded In Planting 25 Billion Seedlings
The Ethiopian government has consistently made global headlines with ambitious tree-planting targets, since launching its Green Legacy Initiative (GLI) Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. A target of planting 20 billion seedlings within a period of four years was set. By the fourth year, the country has succeeded in planting 25 billion seedlings by mobilizing more than 20 million citizens throughout the nation. The development of more than 120,000 nurseries throughout the country has enabled the creation of more than 767,000 jobs, mostly for women and youth. As Ethiopia proved a trailblazer in the freedom fight of Africa, it has pressed ahead with demonstrating it is a trendsetter in the economic sphere through its Green Legacy Initiative.
The Green Legacy Initiative is a demonstration of Ethiopia’s long-term commitment to a multifaceted response to the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation that encompasses agroforestry, forest sector development, greening and renewal of urban areas, and integrated water and soil resources management. This has an immense contribution to Ethiopia’s efforts to meet its international commitments such as the Paris Climate Change Agreement, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.
There has been considerable skepticism, particularly among foresters, regarding the big numbers mentioned by the government. But despite the seemingly unrealistic numbers, the GLI has provided a significant boost to forest development and livelihood improvement across the country. The initiative has also provided a critical chance for the government and its partners to use the media to raise public awareness about the importance of planting trees and protecting existing forests.
For Ethiopia, as is the case with most African countries, agricultural activities, which provide income for 80 percent of the population, have ironically been responsible for land degradation that has taken a toll on crop production and fanned the hunger cycle. The mass tree planting exercise conducted in Ethiopia and championed by the Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy has inspired new greening efforts across the world, which is currently plagued by droughts, flooding, soil erosion, and extreme weather conditions as humanity pays for wanton destruction of forests. Under the Green Legacy initiative – where the second most populous country in Africa seeks to restore its landscape.
The dwindling forest coverage
The forest cover has dwindled at alarming rates and countries haven’t made considerable efforts to attain the 10 percent forest cover as recommended by the United Nations. Yet simple practices like reforestation can go a long way in offsetting the carbon that human activity has pumped into the atmosphere, which is estimated at 10 billion tons each year according to researchers. A recent study indicated that planting 500 billion trees could remove one-fourth of the carbon in the atmosphere. It is encouraging to see countries like China, one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, championing one of the largest reforestation campaigns. In Africa, the Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative is taking shape and has inspired actions like those in Ethiopia.
Fifteen billion trees are cut down every year. The Global Forest Watch project – using satellite imagery – estimates that global tree loss in 2019 was 24 million hectares. That’s an area the size of the United Kingdom. These are big numbers, and important ones to track: forest loss creates a number of negative impacts, ranging from carbon emissions to species extinctions and biodiversity loss. But distilling changes to this single metric – tree or forest loss – comes with its own issues. Nearly 95% of this deforestation occurs in the tropics. But not all of it is to produce products for local markets. 14% of deforestation is driven by consumers in the world’s richest countries we import beef, vegetable oils, cocoa, coffee, and paper that has been produced on deforested land.
The scale of deforestation today might give us little hope for protecting our diverse forests. Many countries have much less forest today than they did in the past. Nearly half (47%) of France was forested 1000 years ago; today that’s just under one-third (31.4%). The same is true of the United States; back in 1630 46% of the area of today’s USA was covered by forest. Today that’s just 34%. Across sub-tropical countries we have a mix: many upper-middle-income countries are now in the late transition phase.
Many people think of environmental concerns as a modern issue: humanity’s destruction of nature and ecosystems as a result of very recent population growth and increasing consumption. This is true for some problems, such as climate change. But it’s not the case for deforestation. Humans have been cutting down trees for millennia. Shortly after the end of the last great ice age – 10,000 years ago – 57% of the world’s habitable land was covered by forest. In the millennia since then, growing demand for agricultural land means we’ve lost one-third of global forests – an area twice the size of the United States. Half of this loss occurred in the last century alone. But it’s possible to end our long history of deforestation: increased crop yields, improved livestock productivity, and technological innovations that allow us to shift away from land-intensive food products give us the opportunity to bring deforestation to an end and restore some of the forests we have lost.
Brazil, for example, went through a period of very rapid deforestation in the 1980s and 90s (its ‘early transition’ phase) but its losses have slowed, meaning it is now in the late transition. Countries such as Indonesia, Myanmar, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are in the early transition phase and are losing forests quickly. Ethiopia’s forest coverage has been declining for decades but increasing in recent years and stands at about 17 million hectares or 15% of the country’s land area, which was about 4% just a decade ago. Of this, about 15.8 million hectares are natural or naturally regenerating forests and about 1.2 million hectares are plantations. In addition, the country has about 18 million hectares of degraded highland area that could be suitable for forest restoration.
Ethiopia’s Green legacy initiative
The Green legacy initiative, Ethiopia launched in June of 2019 by its prime Minister Ahmed, is rooted in a vision of building a green and climate-resilient Ethiopia. and set a target of planting 20 billion seedlings within a period of four years. The country set out to build an exclusive process that will enable a large section of society to be custodians of such a grand national initiative first by participating in the execution and then by being custodians for the future. As a result by the fourth year, the country had successfully planted close to 24 billion seedlings by mobilizing More than 20 million citizens, throughout the nation. The prime minister reaffirmed his commitment to the GLI, sometimes called the Green Legacy Campaign at the 75th General Assembly of the united nations (a virtual meeting) in which he declared:
“Our objective should not only be to recover and rebuild a better future but to do so in a green and climate resilient way. there is no more stark reminder of the need for urgent action than the devastating impact of climate change that we are witnessing in various parts of the world.”
Expected Impact Green Legacy Initiative
Ethiopia is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. Frequent droughts, floods, and locust infestations are some of the manifestations of extreme climate events. Over the past four decades, the average annual temperate in Ethiopia is estimated to have risen by 0.37 degrees Celsius each decade. The Green Legacy Initiative complements Ethiopia’s efforts to reduce its vulnerability. Moreover, forest conservation, reforestation, restoration of degraded land and soil as well as the promotion of sustainable management of forests.
The Sustainable Land Management Programme (SLMP) is also known as the resilient Livelihoods and Landscapes project implemented by the government of Ethiopia through GLI aimed to build resilience, mitigate climate change and boost local livelihoods. Overall, the innovative aspect of the Initiative lies in its potential to address multiple objectives. This entails enormous benefits in environmental protection, restoration of overexploited and degraded natural resources such as surface soil and water, halting desertification, and many other interrelated objectives. The enormity of the interlinkages will significantly contribute to Ethiopia’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Ethiopia’s Green Legacy Initiative has multiple targets as it naturally touches on various targets of the 2030 Agenda. Contribution to food security is one of the objectives of the Initiative. In 2022 alone, more than 500 million seedlings were plants that have premium values in local and international markets such as avocadoes, mangoes, apples, and papayas. This directly feeds into the current drive of becoming food self-sufficient by promoting sustainable agriculture. The Initiative is a major flagship project that will help attain its adaptation goals as set in the National Adaptation Plan.
The GLI is promoted as locally designed, implemented, and owned. Immediate benefits flowing from the campaign ostensibly include job creation and increased opportunities for youth and women. Meanwhile, it claims to provide longer-term benefits such as improved agricultural productivity, food security, water resources, and biodiversity conservation. the global public good benefit of contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) sequestration has also recently been added to the list of benefits. Whilst spearheading national tree planting, urban greening has also become an important focus of the GLI as it aims to clean polluted rivers in urban areas and support green space development initiatives in major cities and towns. Furthermore, the GLI is expected to inspire neighboring countries with a shared interest in its objectives, with claims that it could reduce the displacement of people triggered by conflict over access to grazing land, water, and forests.
The prime minister continues to be the driving political force behind the GLI. the prime Minister’s office has launched campaign slogans each year to mobilize the masses for planting trees such as “Let’s Adorn Ethiopia” in 2021. It has also encouraged voters to plant a tree after voting. Some other politicians also raised their public profiles noticeably through support for the GLI and a green agenda. other key actors in the GLI are the Ministry of Agriculture; the environment, Forest and Climate Change Commission; the Ministry of Water and energy, and the Ministry of Innovation and technology. the respective regional bureaus of these agencies also have a major role in implementation.
Achievements and ways forward
Beyond simply getting trees in the ground, Ethiopia has achieved numerous gains through the Green Legacy initiative in building capacity, systems, and culture around the restoration. One key success of the GLI appears to be greatly raised awareness of key issues amongst some sections of the country’s population, particularly urban dwellers. these issues comprise increasing land degradation in Ethiopia, the need for land rehabilitation and regreening, and the value of tree planting as a useful contribution to that. This awareness seems apparent from the surge in participation of citizens, families, and communities in GLI tree planting. While millions participate in planting every year, the proliferation of nursery sites throughout the country has enabled job creation for various sections of society. Over 183 thousand permanent and temporary jobs have been created as a direct outcome of greening endeavors. In addition, an annually improving survival rate of around 80% is contributing to the creation of new forests.
Through Green Legacy, Ethiopia is laying the foundation for multidimensional prosperity by leaving a climate-smart generational legacy. The energy we have harnessed in this process is a key learning to be applied to yield greater results in our agriculture productivity. According to a statement that the Prime Minster Office released on 15 August 2022, the number of nurseries in the country has increased over three-fold – from less than 40,000 in 2019 to 121,000 in 2022. The initiative has directly created 767,000 green jobs mostly for women and youth – in the past four years. It has also contributed to much more widespread awareness of the importance of reforestation.
“While much still remains, there is no shred of doubt that the Green Legacy has delivered results, the most important of which is green culture.
“We have no doubt that this new culture will be a legacy preserved for Ethiopia’s future generations. Many cities throughout the country are now being conscious of the need to nurture green spaces and enhance forest cover in conducive areas.
“We could not have been able to ignite this consciousness amidst the fast-paced urbanization without the commitment of millions of citizens for whom service of the nation has been of paramount importance.”
Africa is gravely affected by the consequences of climate change and is considered a climate-vulnerable country. The immediate and practical approach to addressing climate change is the Green Legacy initiative. The prevailing environmental context around the country, when launched the GLI initiative, was was a staggering rate of land degradation due to deforestation, among other causes. Inevitably Green Legacy initiative, the clear outcomes included combatting the effects of climate change; restoring degraded landscapes and forests; promoting a green culture and ecotourism; as well as Improving the livelihoods of citizens. As it pertains to tackling deforestation, Green Legacy as a movement has been instrumental in creating public awareness, thereby leading to a significant decline in the rate of deforestation over the past couple of years. Given the achievements that Ethiopia has gained over the last four years in its green initiative, what lessons can the global community learn from this?
Given the hugely positive outcomes, the green legacy initiative, which is relatively cost-effective, brings about significant improvement in climate change and is vital for the development of the global economy which is being seriously affected by climate change. Furthermore, the possibility of building a climate-resilient green economy through green legacy initiatives on a global scale has to be taken as best practice to mitigate climate change. Through planting millions of fruit trees that have multiple advantages, Ethiopia showed that food security can be attained from the multiple outputs of green legacy initiatives, Ethiopia once again demonstrated to the world that such initiatives are of critical importance for the protection and conservation of the environment and the resources thereof.
The Great Green Wall
Started in 2008, the Great Green Wall is a monumental initiative to regenerate the semi-arid northern Sahel region to prevent the Sahara from spreading southwards. The idea is to plant millions of trees on a strip of land about 8,000km long and 15km wide crossing the African continent from Senegal to Djibouti. To give an idea of the scale of the project, the planned route is almost as long as the distance between Paris and Beijing (8,200km). In addition to the goal of restoring 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030, the Great Green Wall aims to capture 250 million tonnes of carbon. It will also improve food security and create millions of jobs in the affected regions.
At present, this ambitious project is only about 15 percent complete, according to the latest estimates. But some $20 billion has recently been pledged at the international level to push it forward and hopefully reach the target in eight years. Although the pledged amount by wealthy nations never materialized, Eleven countries in the Sahel belt are involved in this ecological restoration project. However, only a handful have made significant contributions in the decade since launch. As detailed in our infographic, over the period 2008-2019, Ethiopia accounted for more than half of the restored land in the project’s area of focus, followed by Niger (20 percent), Eritrea (15 percent), and Senegal (3 percent). Though some countries have set ablaze with the green revolution and there is a lot more to be desired, the sought-for breakthrough in greening the region is long in coming, and a breakthrough in greening the region is long in coming.
Lesson from Ethiopia Green Legacy Initiative
The Ethiopian government and its people believe that environmental protection is the epicenter of economic development as it has a multifaceted advantage. Green growth is the selection of economic activities that promote environmental and social development besides curbing the consequences of climate change, which is a threat to the world as a whole. Realizing the benefit the nation has been investing in the green legacy campaign and planted more than 25 billion tree seedlings over the past four years surpassing the target of 20 billion. As a result, environmental protection and tree plantation are becoming Ethiopian culture which gives them moral strength to share their experiences with other African communities. The decision to share the legacy is proper as the effort made by it alone will not bring a significant impact on climate change and deforestation.
That is why Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (who attended the UN Climate Change Conference COP 27 in the resort town of Sharm el Shiekh in Egyptian), called upon partners to honor their climate pledges, provide the necessary financing and address the outstanding issues of loss and damage and the carbon trading mechanism in ways that allow for faster results, He stressed the necessity of translating Pledges into new resources and support. The world is making uninterrupted conferences on climate change but the 100 billion USD pledge that was made to assist less developed countries is still a pie in the sky. He said the time to avert the worst effects of the climate crisis is running out, and must now scale up our efforts. He said:
“Africa is the most vulnerable to climate change while accounting for less than 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions and approximately 17% of the total global population. Nonetheless, Africa receives less than 5% of the world’s climate fund, which is mainly in debt. Combating climate change requires a collaborative effort and adequate funding.
“Increased funding must reflect the magnitude of Africa’s challenge. Countries must honor their climate pledges, provide the necessary financing, and address the outstanding issues of loss and damage and the carbon trading mechanism in ways that allow for faster results.”
Although the western industrialized countries and developed nations in the Far East are major contributors to climate change-induced disasters, the effects of these changes have seriously affected the livelihood of millions of people in the continent of Africa. According to the UN Provisional State of the Global Climate 2022, increasing levels of greenhouse gases have been witnessed in comparison to the pre-industrial era. Accordingly, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by 149%, methane by 262%, and nitrous oxide by 124%. For Ethiopia, the issue of tackling climate change in an integrated manner is not just a programmatic undertaking but a matter of survival for the nation. Before the turning of the new millennium, the nation’s forest coverage was estimated to be less than 5 percent. Over the last two decades, however, the country’s forest coverage had grown to about 15 percent. Abiy Ahmed said at the UN Climate Change Conference COP 27:
“Our Green Legacy Initiative will undoubtedly help to remove hundreds of millions of tons of Carbon dioxide equivalent from the atmosphere and reduce deforestation, implying Ethiopia’s significant contribution to global climate change mitigation efforts.
The National Green Legacy Initiative launched by Prime Minister Abiy the nation has planted 25 billion seedlings across the country and in the areas where campaigns have been conducted in catchment development and soil conservation and localities specially selected for their vulnerability to soil erosion, landslides, and related natural disasters. According to the Prime Minister, the Green Legacy Initiative is now the most extensive afforestation and reforestation program in the world, second only to the Amazon. Ethiopia has also put over 700,000 hectares of existing biodiversity and carbon-rich natural forests under a sustainable participatory forest management scheme, in addition to tree planting afforestation and reforestation efforts. Forestry is one of the main pillars of the economy to develop an environmentally sustainable and climate-resilient economy through protecting and re-establishing forests for their economic and ecosystem services, including carbon stocks, which brings the country a middle-income status with NetZero emission by 2030.
“Ethiopia plans to restore an additional 22 million hectares of degraded land by 2030, building on its previous success. In addition, we are creating a green fund and will pursue carbon trading schemes to help raise additional funds.
“We have made rapid and significant progress in combating climate change through ambitious climate action and a green pathway for growth and prosperity in three key areas. These include afforestation, reforestation, and green legacy; ensuring food sovereignty; and transitioning to green energy.”
Ethiopia’s commitment to low-carbon climate-resilient development has been hailed by the international community. And rightly so: despite negligible contributions to global emissions, the country’s rapid development over the last decade has not compromised on protecting its citizens and environment from the impacts of climate change. By extension, Ethiopia is helping to protect the whole planet. Ethiopia’s experience has shown the importance of leadership commitment in public mobilization in planning, funding, and executing programs on climate change. Such commitment is urgent, vital, and necessary for human survival. Reforestation helps to establish social harmony, friendship, and peace among the people of the world at a national and global scale.