Restoring the Landscapes of Ethiopia’s Highlands: Enhancing livelihoods through scaling-up sustainable climate-smart land management practices and improving tenure security

July 21, 2016


The Sustainable Land Management Project II (SLMP-2) is the Bank’s flagship resilient landscapes operation. Since 2008, 260,000 hectares of production lands are now better managed, benefiting more than 700,000 people (36% female). Major crop yields increased an average 10% while protective vegetation cover in the project watersheds increased 9%. SLMP has boosted household income 161%. Over 100,000 households were issued with land holding certificates, which legally entitles them to use the land. This has greatly enhanced their sense of ownership. Streams have returned and water tables have risen.


Natural resource degradation undermines resilience, water and energy security, and agriculture -- which employs over 80% of the population. Throughout Ethiopia, land degradation has lowered productivity and water availability, entrenching food insecurity and rural poverty, and lowering agricultural gross domestic product GDP by 2-3%. Recently, 40% of crop and pasture lands have been severely degraded with another 20% now facing degradation, affecting water availability. Open grazing, firewood demand, and unsustainable crop production all place pressure on land resources. Land tenure insecurity also undermines re-investment in land resources. Climate variability and change are amplifying this complex challenge.

The natural resource base remains the foundation for the vast majority of Ethiopians’ livelihoods as well as sectoral goals such as water provision, irrigation, power generation and household energy, as well as food production. Investment in land resources is vital to build resilience, drive equitable economic growth and protect gains made from that growth among households and communities.


To address this challenge, SLMP-2 takes an inclusive, community-based integrated watershed management approach. International Development Association (IDA) resources have leveraged additional institutions, investment, and information which helped to scale up landscape restoration in 142 districts. SLMP-2 provides an integrated package of solutions to help break the degradation/poverty cycle such as   terracing, closing pastures to regenerate tree and vegetation cover, reforestation, gully reclamation, and woodlots; and provides livelihoods support and climate-smart agriculture including better crop and livestock management practices. SLMP2 also supports land use and watershed planning, land tenure certification, and infrastructure such as small irrigation and rural roads.

These activities have enhanced communities’ resilience to climate risks,   and provided them with diverse livelihood opportunities. SLMP-2 finances the innovative community-driven pasture closures which has led to greater livestock productivity, water availability, and the ancillary benefit of children attending school instead of tending their herds. The project is also providing landless youth groups with degraded land to rehabilitate and use.

" Our community now considers SLMP as the savior of our land; it conserves soil as the flesh, trees as the bones, and water as the blood "

Beniam Kehilu

Farmer in the Kola Embhasti (Tigray region)


Integrated watershed and landscape management activities were the major activities of the project directly resulted in the restoration of landscapes, enhancement of land productivity, and improvement of livelihoods and the overall biophysical environment. The project interventions generated several key outcomes including:

  • Sustainable land management practices are being applied on 260,000 hectares of crop and range lands since 2008 (including both individual farmlands and communal lands).
  • Agricultural productivity increased an average of 10% from 2008-2013: yields for major crops increased in all treated watersheds in 45 districts.
  • Protective vegetation cover increased 9% from 2011-2013.
  • Soil carbon content increased from 1.9% to 2.5% from 2009 to 2013.
  • The vegetation cover expansion and increasing soil carbon content together indicate improved ecological function and agricultural productivity potential in the treated watersheds.
  • The number of beneficiary farmers with a sense of tenure security increased: A total of 102,850 households were issued with second level certificates since 2008.  The number of recipients of land certificates with a sense of tenure security compared with non-recipients increased by 98%.
  • Land under small scale irrigation increased by 2,800 hectares from 2009-2013.
  • Farmers engaged in income generation activities increased 69% from 2008-2013. Farmers were mainly engaged in beehives, goat and sheep raising, poultry and horticulture production, and dairy products. The number of beneficiary households reached 16,819 of which 40% were female.

Bank Group Contribution

SLMP has been scaled up through a partnership with the $1.1 billion regional World Bank/ Global Environment Facility (GEF) Sahel and West Africa Program (SAWAP) for the Great Green Wall Initiative. The $50m IDA investment in SLMP-2 is complemented by a grant of $40 million from Norway and $13 million from the GEF and its Least-Developed Country Fund (LCDF). SLMP-2 has four components: Integrated Watershed and Landscape Management ($69 million); Institutional Strengthening, Capacity Development and Knowledge Generation and Management ($17 million);  Rural Land Administration, Certification and Land Use ($12 million); and Project Management ($5 million).


The WBG played the central role in convening partners for joint action. Ethiopia's SLM Program has been under implementation since 2008, strongly supported by the WB-supported SLMP-2 and several development partners such as Norway, Canada, Germany and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).  The Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources (MoANR), the World Bank and other development partners have been working together to achieve the main objectives of Ethiopia’s Strategic Investment Framework for Sustainable Land Management (2009-2023), ensuring harmonization, coordination, and alignment of investment, institutions and information.

Moving Forward

SLMP-2 is establishing replicable and scalable models for integrated natural resource management packages to address complex development challenges such as the inter-related problems of land degradation, drought and other climate risks, productivity constraints, land use, water security, and land tenure. Due to the remarkable achievements made under SLMP-1 and positive results of the on-going SLMP-2, the MoANR continued its strong partnership and collaboration with the Bank in scaling-up sustainable and climate smart land and water management practices through its national  SLMP using innovative, integrated and inclusive landscape restoration and management approaches.


The various nicknames given by communities to SLMP are testimonies to its success. Those in Hotte (Oromia region), call it fayyissa (healer).  According to Beniam Kehilu, a farmer in the Kola Embhasti (Tigray region), “SLMP cured the environment, human life, and livestock.” “In Tind Wat (Amhara region), SLMP is yemeret abbat (father of the land). Tamire Tadesse elaborates: “SLMP is more than a father. A father cannot feed his children when there is no food. Our community now considers SLMP as the savior of our land; it conserves soil as the flesh, trees as the bones, and water as the blood.”