Monthly Archives: September 2016

‘No one leaves any more’: Ethiopia’s restored drylands offer new hope


Migration is no longer the only option for many young Ethiopians, as careful restoration revives livelihoods on eroded and deforested land.

Kahsay Gebretsadik was arrested at 5am in Saudi Arabia. As an illegal immigrant with no papers he knew this was the end of his stay. After 15 days in prison, police placed him on a plane to Addis Ababa, one of 160,000 Ethiopian migrants expelled from Saudi Arabia in recent years. A perilous trek out of Ethiopia followed by two years of back-breaking work for a Bengali building contractor had come to nothing.

Gebretsadik, now 30, is one of nine children. The family has just 0.6 acres of land in the semi-arid state of Tigray, where only 400-800mm of rain falls a year. The land offered no work and Gebretsadik failed to find a job after school – even though his country’s economy had been growing by double digits for a decade – so when he heard “interesting stories” from friends, he opted to migrate.

As is most often the case in Africa, he headed to a nearby region. “I walked through Djibouti and then to Yemen,” he told me. “Because our journey was illegal, we were guided by brokers. We walked day and night for more than a month – 170 males and females. Sometimes the brokers fought. It was not good for me.”

Now home again in Gergera in far north Ethiopia, Gebretsadik is hopeful that land restoration will allow him to stay there. He has joined a group of 15 that includes four other returnees, and they are running a business producing tree seedlings and fodder grass for farmers and to support regreening in their local authority.

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In Kenya, farmers see early rewards from adding legumes and trees to their farms

photo-49Less than a year after supplying farmers with legume seeds and fertilizer tree seedlings, the Legume CHOICE project team caught up with farmers and traders in Kisii and Migori counties of Kenya. The farmers were already enjoying the benefits and were keen to scale up.

Legume crops like beans and peas (known collectively as pulses when dry) are a versatile and affordable source of protein and other important nutrients. A mainstay of vegetarian diets, legumes play a critical role in meeting the protein needs of people who cannot access animal proteins such as meat and eggs.

The Legume CHOICE project is supplying farmers with their choice of seeds of beans and other legumes, which they grow for home consumption and sale. In addition, the farmers receive advice on how to grow the legumes and on better land management, part of which is growing useful trees and shrubs. In this way, the project aims to fully realise the potential of legumes to improve diets and livelihoods of people practicing mixed crop-livestock farming in East & Central Africa.  It is currently active in Kenya, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo).

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Kenya to Restore Denmark-sized Area of Degraded Land

21653208749_7f462ab620_kKenya announced on September 8th that it will restore 5.1 million hectares (12.6 million acres) of degraded land, an area roughly the size of Denmark, to more productive use. The move is poised to improve livelihoods, curb climate change, safeguard biodiversity and more.

As a result of poor land use, including overcultivation and overgrazing, Kenya has been quickly losing land todesertification. The drylands that make up much of the country are particularly susceptible.

Kenya’s restoration plan is not only notable because it will reverse some of this degradation, but because of how the country set its international target.

WRI participated in a technical working group that used a novel research approach to map Kenya’s different land areas. That group found 38.8 million hectares (96 million acres)—more than 65 percent of Kenya’s total land area—suitable for restoration. The goal announced last Thursday represents more than 13 percent of the total restorable land area. (View the map here.)

The development of this map goes beyond spurring the commitment—it will help government, civil society and business leaders ascertain how they will achieve it. Local leaders can use the map to identify restoration activities, which could involve everything from planting trees alongside crops to reforesting clear-cut forests to adding vegetation along roads.

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Q&A: How to Involve Kenya’s Local Communities in Adapting to Climate Change?

24543987921_8edf8918d1_z_1Kenya faces several disparate climate change impacts, such as severe droughts in some areas and extreme floods in other parts. It’s a challenge for the adaptation planners tasked with helping vulnerable communities become more resilient.

WRI held a training in Kenya for members of government agencies, NGOs and the private sector on tools to evaluate, plan for and prioritize adaptation. Phillip Oyoo from CARE International, an adaptation planner who works with local communities in Kenya, was one of those participants. I caught up with him to talk about the challenges he faces in his work, and how he thinks emerging tools can help address Kenya’s climate adaptation challenges.

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Can the Great Green Wall change direction?

160922095253-great-wall-senegal-exlarge-169A 7,700 kilometer wall of trees, running through 11 countries along the southern frontier of the Sahara Desert. That’s what the African Union proposed in 2007, a “Great Green Wall” that was to be the largest living structure on the planet.

The purpose was to provide a mighty barrier against the advance of the Sahara, and to reverse the plague of desertification spreading drought, famine and poverty through the Sahel region. The Great Green Wall Initiative for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI) has since gained rocket boosters. Today, the Initiative has 21 African countries participating, over $4 billion of pledged funding, and heavyweight partners from the World Bank to the French government.

The projects has sky-high ambitions; to restore 50 million hectares of land, provide food security for 20 million people, create 350,000 jobs, and sequester 250 million tons of carbon. Work is already underway. The GGWSSI recently reported that 15% of trees have already been planted, largely in Senegal, where four million hectares have been restored. But the grand vision rests on a suspect premise.

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