Communities Manage Ethiopia’s Forests to Improve Livelihoods, Resilience, and Shared Benefits

June 1, 2017

Photo credit: Karin Kaechele / World Bank

  • Forests are vital for poverty alleviation; climate change resilience and mitigation; and water, energy, and food security for the Ethiopian economy and the Horn of Africa.
  • Community inclusion and empowerment are both critical to sustainably managing forests and equitably distributing development benefits from forests.
  • In May, the Ethiopian government launched the Oromia Forested Landscape Program which covers over 40% of the country’s forests. The program, initially financed by an $18 million grant now under implementation, would provide results-based payments for 10 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emission reductions achieved across Oromia Regional State.

ADDIS ABABA, June 1, 2017 — The Chilimo forest is one of the few remnants of a dry, mountainous forest that once covered Ethiopia’s Central Plateau. At one time under threat from deforestation, the Chilimo forest is now under the sustainable management of local community cooperatives. Local forest communities are empowered to protect, manage, and decide on how to use the benefits accrued from the forest.   

On May 5, 2017, the government of Ethiopia, with support from the World Bank, officially launched the Oromia Forested Landscape Program to build on the successes of the Chilimo forest and expand activities across Oromia Regional State.  The launch was celebrated with a tree-planting ceremony and a visit by government, World Bank, and development partner representatives keen to learn from the experiences and challenges encountered by the community. The event also included a meeting with forest cooperative leaders and a celebration to kick-off of the new state-wide program.

The pride and enthusiasm of the community in managing the forest have been rewarded even in the face of continuous pressures on the forest. The launch highlighted a key feature of the program – it centers on the effort to replicate the successful community-centered approach as widely as possible by leveraging partners and other projects across the regional state.

The program is financed initially through an $18 million grant to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia by the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (ISFL) to improve the enabling environment for sustainable forest management and investment in Oromia. The program aims to eventually provide results-based payments for emission reductions achieved across Oromia Regional State. The World Bank’s ISFL has committed to buying up to 10 million tons of verified carbon dioxide equivalent emission reductions state-wide between 2018 and 2028. The grant helps realize this result by strengthening government systems related to safeguards, forest monitoring, and cross-sector coordination. 

“The program will be the coordination platform for multi-sector, multi-partner interventions on all forested landscapes in Oromia,” says Dr. Hassan Yusuf, Director General of Oromia’s new Environment, Forest and Climate Change Authority, which will implement the program. “This long-term program will be the engine that will help transform how we manage forests to foster poverty reduction, improved livelihoods, climate change resilience and mitigation, and biodiversity conservation”.

At the local level, the program will initially invest grant funds in participatory forest management and reforestation in targeted sites in 49 districts (woredas) that are deforestation hotspots. These on-the-ground activities will help reduce deforestation and land-use based emissions, and enhance forest carbon stocks, especially when used as models for scaling up throughout the state. Actions at this level can include:

  • training communities in sustainable planting, maintenance, and nursery management;
  • zoning forests into forest management blocks and creating community-led management plans for each;
  • promoting enrichment planting of degraded forests within forest blocks; and,
  • promoting household energy options that give alternatives to fuelwood.

At the state level, the program will help advance institutional development, forest-smart policies, incentives and forest monitoring to create an enabling environment for local initiatives to thrive and scale up. This support includes:

  • technical assistance to strengthen value chains for nature-based enterprises;
  • increased private sector engagement;
  • enhanced safeguards management to increase the effectiveness of environment and social risk management;
  • mapping the natural resource base, including forests, land use, land cover, and hydrology; and
  • preparing a benefit sharing mechanism to equitably manage future payments for emission reductions.

Building on existing forest initiatives

This program is part of the World Bank Group’s five-year Forest Action Plan which seeks to make the sustainable management of forests an integral part of the global development agenda. The Forest Action Plan recognizes the importance of forests for people, for economies, and for efforts to combat climate change and the depletion of natural resources.

Since 2012, Ethiopia has been putting in place the building blocks for its national strategy to reduce deforestation and forest degradation and enhance forest carbon stocks (activities commonly referred to as REDD+) with $13.8 million of support from the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) Readiness Fund and the BioCarbon Fund.

The Oromia program will also seek out partnerships with new and existing public-private sector initiatives. For example, as part of the program’s commitment to forest-proof the coffee supply chain in Ethiopia, the program includes an existing partnership between the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation, Nespresso, ISFL and TechnoServe already working to improve sustainable agricultural practices in the country’s coffee industry.