Ethiopia’s 25 billion tree planting feat – Economic strategy and lessons to others

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Protecting the Environment and mitigating climate change effects are two critical tasks that Ethiopia has undertaken effectively in the last decade.

Beside the importance of tree planting, the Ethiopian government has used the laudable action to augment the economy and boost the employment rate in the country as well as improve on the agricultural sector which many of its citizens largely depends on.

To this end, it has launched several action plans targeted at building a green and resilient economy.

Prominent among such action plans is the Green Legacy Initiative launched in 2019 through which the country has embarked on an unprecedented tree-planting initiative that got the country global recognition while improving its environment and economy.

The tree-planting Initiative and its success record

The initiative was launched in June 2019 with a target of planting 20 billion seedlings within four years.

The ambitious tree-planting mission forms part of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s drive to restore the country’s forest coverage which has been said to have declined to about four per cent since the early 2000s from around thirty-five per cent in the 20th century as well as combat the effects of climate change and also tackle environmental degradation.

Under the plan, the target for the first year was 4 billion trees across the country by the end of the rainy season in October 2019.

Ethiopia being home to Africa’s second-largest population, implementing such a nationwide tree-planting task wouldn’t have come on a platter of gold.

However, by the time the tree planting commenced as led by Prime Minister Abiy himself, it wasn’t just accepted, it became a national movement that got all and sundry including diplomats, international organisations in the country, the business community as well as public officers, students and others participating actively to make it a success.

And yes, a success it became as Ethiopia made history on 29th July 2019 when it announced that it planted 353,633,660 million trees in just 12 hours, setting a new world record, and breaking India’s record of planting 50 million trees in a day.

Within the first two years of the programme, a total of 10 billion trees were planted raising the government’s hopes of attaining its 20 billion targets set for 2022.

Did this come to pass? It did because as of 2022, the country had successfully planted 25 billion seedlings which included a variety of agroforestry trees and fruit trees like avocado and papaya, across the country surpassing its initial 20 billion four-year goals set at the start of the project in 2019.

Impact of the tree planting initiative

As expected, every initiative would either bring about positive or negative effects on society. The tree planting initiative brought about a lot of possibilities for Ethiopia in the area of job creation, urban development, etc in addition to the initial goals of addressing environmental issues and fighting climate change effects.

In particular, about 767 thousand jobs were created mostly for women and youths in the green economy circle. In the area of sustainable agriculture and ensuring food security, the initiative has helped grow the country’s agricultural produce given that close to 60% of the seedlings planted will become fruit-bearing trees which will in turn provide additional harvest and income for farmers as well as increase food sufficiency in the country.

If anything, the Prime Minister through the initiative has also encouraged Ethiopians to engage in small farming practices in the comfort of their homes by planting vegetables and fruits to augment the dietary intake of children to reduce malnutrition and also generate income for poor families.

The encouragement was not limited to the country alone as Ethiopia’s tree planting activities got global recognition whereby as little as it may be, the efforts inspired some other countries beyond the shores of Africa to do more in terms of tree planting to save their environment.

Some of these countries that were motivated by Ethiopia’s tree-planting success stories include India, China and Pakistan.

Additionally, while Ethiopia was identified as one of the most vulnerable to climate change due to its high dependence on rainfed agriculture, the tree planting project has helped reduce the declining forest coverage, restore degraded soils and lands and overall reduce the country’s vulnerability.

On its own, the initiative has been able to impact lives meaningfully either directly or indirectly and it is believed that when complemented with other relevant initiatives in the country, will go far in tackling major environmental challenges facing the country.

As all these possibilities and more which come from the tree planting initiative have further contributed to Ethiopia’s efforts towards meeting its national development agenda as well as setting it on track towards achieving other international agendas like the Sustainable Development goal and the Africa 2063 agenda, all we can hope for going forward is that it is effectively managed and sustained for maximum impact on Ethiopia and the African continent at large.

























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