BY SOLOMON DIBABA
Over the last four years, Ethiopians of all walks of life have been planting trees under the National Green Legacy initiative that was launched by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in 2019. The initiative is part of the Climate Resilient Green Economy Policy and Strategy that was launched in 2011.
According to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopians planted more than 25 billion trees in four years across the country and have managed to plant 350 million trees in a period of 12 hours breaking the world record that was held by India. Addis Ababa City Administration has vowed to scale up the figure to 4 million.
Recognizing that it is among the 20 most vulnerable countries to climate change, Ethiopia decided in 2019 to conduct a massive nationwide tree planting which included indigenous and fruit bearing trees.
For Ethiopia, and most African countries, agricultural activities, which provide income for 80 percent of the population, have ironically been subjected to land degradation that has taken a toll on crop production and fanned the hunger cycle. The forest cover has also dwindled at alarming rates and countries have not made considerable efforts to attain the 10 percent forest cover as recommended by the United Nations.
The national program of tree planting is the first of its kind in the world, providing with multiple repercussions to global and national advantages.
At this point in time when the world, including highly advanced countries of Europe are plagued with drought, extreme heat, forest fire, and flood and soil erosion of the highest magnitude as a result of global warming, which has become a threat to human life and civilization. In this regard, Ethiopia is aggressively working for the restoration of its forest cover, is actively contributing to the reduction of carbon which is released to the atmosphere at the rate of 10 billion tons every year.
According to Gravitas (August 15, 2022), Europe is facing the worst drought in 500 years, and it has already been brought under high-level of drought alert. As the result of the current drought, Europe has lost 80 billion Euros while its hydropower supply is reduced by 20 percent. Andria Toreti from EU Joint Commission Research Center disclosed that wild fires in Europe have razed 26,000 hectares of agricultural land. Despite the warnings from scientists for over a decade, many of the global powers still lack the necessary and urgent political commitment to curb this horrendous global situation.
The Government of Ethiopia, however, is far more committed not only to promoting the National Green Legacy in Ethiopia but is also trying to replicating the initiative to other African countries.
What are the new innovations that the Green Legacy Initiative has brought for Ethiopia? Let us look at some of them. The culture of tree planting has now become a new cultural innovation in the country. This culture is an important innovation that would reconcile human beings and nature in Ethiopia.
In his written contribution on Ethiopia’s Green Legacy Initiative, on August 15, 2022, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed noted that “Green legacy established a nationwide green culture.’’ He said, ”Beyond conferences and summits, addressing the climate change challenge requires tangible action.” Abiy also pointed out that ‘‘Ethiopia’s investments in renewable energy from hydroelectric, wind, solar and geothermal sources will soon rectify the act of deforestation.”
The premier continued “There are many ingredients to our success as there are lessons derived from the Green Legacy Initiative within the four-year period since we began. For example, when the massive tree planting program was launched in 2019, there were less than 40,000 nurseries nationwide, with very low production capacity. In the current year – 2022, the number of nurseries in Ethiopia surpasses 121,000, with a cumulative capacity of producing 7.6 billion seedlings of various species.”
The tree species include fruit varieties, mainly avocado, mango and papaya, aimed at making the Green Legacy Initiative improve access to food and nutrition and enhance export ambitions, he added.
Stating what lessons that country has learned from the imitative, Prime Minister Abiy added “A second example is the progressive change introduced by the initiative in improvement of site selection and site preparation, including early pitting, which has facilitated early planting. This year, for instance, around 1.8 million ha. of land has been identified for planting, of which more than 200,000 is geo-referenced. A key catalyst for our success, however, is political will and demonstrable commitment at all levels of leadership.”
The promises that advanced western countries made to commit 100 billion USD for climate change mitigation have not been fulfilled so far. However, these countries need to support promising results on climate change adaptation and mitigation that has been vividly demonstrated in Ethiopia.
“While much still remains, there is no shred of doubt that the Green Legacy Initiative has delivered results, the most important of which is a ‘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 fast paced urbanization without the commitment of millions of citizens for whom service to the nation has been of paramount importance. Beyond the new culture taking shape, the Green Legacy Initiative has thus far directly created more than 767,000 jobs, mostly for women and youth, as part of a green economy taking shape,” the Premier remarked.
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?
Few things could be enumerated. Unless governments of all countries are united on a common global initiative in curbing the devastating effects of climate change, there could be no meaningful result by remaining indifferent to the looming global disaster just at the corner.
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.
Given the huge positive outcomes, green legacy initiative, which is relatively cost effective, brings about significant improvement on climate change and is vital for the development of 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 global scale has to be taken as best practice to mitigate climate change.
Through planting millions of fruit trees that have a multiple advantages, Ethiopia showed that food security can be attained from the multiple output 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.
Tree planting helps to establish social harmony, friendship and peace among the people of the world at national and global scale. It promotes social integration and unity as demonstrated in Ethiopia.
As Prime Minister Abiy noted, “We now know that rapid climate change is manifesting in the rise of global temperatures, frequent extreme natural events, increasing sea levels and many other occurrences. Unfortunately, the African continent has little to do in terms of being a net producer of greenhouse gases, yet experiences its harsh realities. In tandem with other climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies, other African countries can take Ethiopia’s Green Legacy Initiative as a best practice.”
All told, the Ethiopian National Green Legacy initiative will continue with far more broader dimensions as the country cruises through the road to prosperity.