Reforesting Ethiopian Mountains Can Boost Economy

Reforestation Can Curb Climate Change

This is a proposal to help the Government of Ethiopia to move away from subsistent to surplus production and towards integration into the global economy by demonstrating, the through modeling, the economic, financial and institutional feasibility of mountain reforestation and creation of forest/forest based industries.

The main anticipated beneficiaries/ customers/investors are the Government of Ethiopia, US consultants, investors, exporters, suppliers of equipment, and NGOs, who being convinced in the feasibility of the project would invest in the project. USTDA’s would also benefit through achieving its mission by allocating vital resources for strategic use of foreign assistance funds to support sound investment policy and decision-making in Ethiopia, host country  and a US ally that creates an enabling environment for trade, investment and sustainable economic development.

reforestation and forest conservation

Forest and forest products industry is part of the Basic Material Sector. It is one of the most important industries whose prices in the world market have been rising in recent past. Given the high growth of emerging markets and their increasing demand for basic materials including forest and forest product, the demand for forest products is expected to be very high in the foreseeable future.

However, reforestation of mountain environments is a challenging task. Once vegetation has been removed or even reduced, the soil loses stability. Removal of the dead organic matter (detritus) from forest soils further destabilizes soils. Erosion of soil from deforested land can be very significant depending on the steepness of the slope, the precipitation regime, and the type of soil. A reforestation program needs to first stabilize soils, taking into account these factors as well as the level of human land use. Another challenge to reforestation is choosing the species to plant.

The environment may have changed and it may not be possible to simply replant the species that previously existed before deforestation and expect good growth. Forests progress through stages with “pioneer species” establishing first and then being replaced by other species characteristic of the mature ecosystem. Additionally, achieving the bio diversity of the previously-existing forest may be difficult because the number of species that can realistically be cultivated may be fewer. Also, at higher altitudes where the climate is often more severe, recovery rates are often slowed compared to lower altitudes.

Despite the above challenges, reforestation has vital commercial value besides its also vital importance for survival of humanity as a species. In fact, currently, three of the most important challenges facing humanity can be addressed through reforestation. Reforestation can help reduce carbon emission in the environment.

With establishment carbon exchange market, reforestation in the long run may pay the investment. Reforestation, particularly mountain forest, could help maintain water tables which are vital for the development of urban water supply and reduction of water scarcity among communal groups and even nations. In fact the United Nations has identified water scarcity to be one of the fundamental sources of conflicts of the 21st century.  Reforestation, done correctly, can also help maintain biodiversity which is a critical for survival civilization as we know it.

According to Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority, between 1983 and 2003 alone a total of 21,000 hectares of land has been deforested.  The continued progress of deforestation is likely to turn the Horn of Africa region into a region of instability over dwindling resources of forest and forest products. Arresting deforestation is an essential national priority not only the Ethiopian Government but for the Global communities and stewards of environment, peace and biodiversity. Ethiopia has been impacted by deforestation in the past century. This has resulted in recurrent famine. With increased in population, increasingly people have began to settle in the mountain regions, thus threatening the social fabric of the nation. The rapid deforestation had resulted in significant communal conflicts over woods for fuel and building material, and water sources for human and cattle.

deforestation and climate change

In environmentally venerable countries such as Ethiopia, activities in reforestation are also vital for positive economic outcome too. In Ethiopian case, reforestation can lead to rapid increase in agricultural productivity. Using appropriate advance knowledge in biotechnology, and environmental management in mountain forest developed in USA, a whole new industry can be created.

The resulting new division of labor can give rise to economic activities outside of the agriculture sector based on forest/forest products. The new industries will absorb not only the surplus labor created due to increase in productivity in the agricultural sector but also provide increasing effective demand for the agricultural sector. This in turn will bolster productivity in the agriculture sector. It will make urbanization possible as most of the 13 industries noted above flourish based on the forest and forest products. It will also help create a middle class based on agro-forest industrial labor.

Reforestation also becomes vital for creating a home market for agriculture produces and industrial product. As the potential for export and opportunity to earn foreign exchange earnings improves the country will have potential to import goods and services from US and other countries. Its will achieve sectoral growth and macroeconomic stability. This will help create a social environment that lessens of social conflicts and enhance poverty alleviation.  It can also be a basis for development of an eco-tourism industry further deepening the social division of labor and with it growth of labor productivity.

Due to these inherent opportunities and challenges to mountain reforestation, the project can be phased as follows:

What causes (caused) the deforestation? This driver of the problem needs to be eliminated or neutralized before an effective program can be adopted.

What local policies and infrastructure exists or could be established that can assist with the long-term success of a reforestation project?

What are the consequences and unintended consequences of implementing a reforestation program?

Develop a comprehensive plan for reforestation of a (specific, to be determined) mountain region. Learn, through evaluation, from recent massive tree planting experiment.

The main outcome will be the emergence of a multi-purpose industry employing thousands of non-crop workers who have purchasing power for effective demand for food crops. It means better rural and urban housing.  It also means people, who are free from subsistent production; and, who are integrated into the Global market.

For more information about reforestation and sustainability, please visit

reforestation and climate change solution

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

About Gary Chandler

Gary Chandler is the founder and Executive Director of Sacred Seedlings, a division of Earth Tones, Inc.
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