Title :The Greening Campaign: Community Mobilization to Combat Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought in Eritrea Through Tree Planting, Soil and Water Conservation, Energy Saving Stoves, and Enclosure Establishment
Audience :Forest experts, Extension agents and Policy makers Country :eritrea Category :Land Management
Eritrea has a land area of about 125,000 km2 with a population of about 3.5 million people. About 60% of the population depends on traditional subsistence agriculture, including crop production and livestock husbandry. Agriculture accounts for 11.6% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (World Bank, 2012) compared to 30.6% for industry, and 57.8% for services. However, agricultural production is affected by many factors including; high rainfall variability with recurrent and long drought periods, continuous land degradation, frequent pest outbreak, and inadequate research and extension services.
The main causes of land degradation in Eritrea include: deforestation mainly due to tree cutting for fuelwood, settlements, overgrazing, and agricultural expansion. These practices contribute to increased incidences of drought; and desertification. The practices have also negatively affected agriculture and forestry sector leading to forest cover decreasing from 30% in 1891 to 2-3% in 2018.
The overall objective of the Greening Campaign is to rehabilitate the degraded land of Eritrea through community mobilization.
The Greening Campaign started through government effort to reforest the country. The Campaign was launched by H.E. Isaias Afwerki, President of the State of Eritrea on May 15, 2006 at a National Conference. During the Conference, H.E. President Isaias Afwerki declared that “All national events in Eritrea should be accompanied by tree planting. Tree planting should not be left only to volunteers, rather it should be mandatory with clear action plans”. Consequently, May 15 is marked as the National Greening Day in Eritrea.
After launching the Greening Campaign in 2006, a National Committee was established to organize and follow-up the campaign in all regions of the country. The Committee thereafter developed a series of guidelines to assist in managing and monitoring annual achievement of the Greening Campaign as all the activities must be measurable.
The Greening Campaign consists of several components of which the major ones are:
Soil and water conservation
Establishment of Green Clubs in schools
Energy saving stoves
Establishment of enclosures
Tree planting and Soil and Water Conservation
Soil and Water Conservation and Tree Planting are carried out in the following areas:
Along road sides
In religious institutions
In Government institutions
At homesteads and compounds
The Green Clubs
The Greening Campaign reinforces the promotion of Green Clubs at all levels in schools and colleges throughout the country. Objectives of establishing Green Clubs in schools are to:-
Shape the attitude of young children towards greening and improvement of the environment
Sensitize school children to establish nurseries and plant tree seedlings
Introduce Natural Resources Management (NRM) to school children
In Eritrea, trees are important energy sources for domestic use, hence contributing to increased deforestation. To minimize the problem, the Government of the State of Eritrea introduced energy saving stoves locally called “Adhanet” (saver). Advantages of the improved energy saving stove over the traditional stove are as follows:
The improved stove reduces firewood consumption by over 50%.
Labour and time of women and children who are responsible for fetching firewood is saved.
Family health is improved as smoke is channeled outside through the chimney.
Establishment of enclosures
There are two categories of enclosures promoted in Eritrea, namely;
National enclosure (within National Parks).
Community based enclosures.
The enclosures are a divided into;
Various activities such as terracing and reseeding of grass are carried out before establishing enclosures. Once the enclosures are established, cut and carry and bee keeping are undertaken among other practices.
Since 2006, more than 45 million tree seedlings have been planted to rehabilitate vast degraded land.
Over 500 Green Clubs have been established across the country and are increasing exponentially every year. However, only 50% of targeted number of clubs have been established.
Farmers have taken up tree planting at individual level. For example, the late Hagos Dirar planted 67,000 tree seedlings in the name of each Eritrean martyr who sacrificed his/ her life for Eritrean independence and safeguarding the country’s sovereignty.
Individuals were given degraded land and survival rate of planted trees is about 100% in most cases.
Soil and water conservation has been successfully undertaken by communities on farm land resulting in increased crop yield by 20-40% on the average.
To promote energy saving, more than 150,000 efficient cooking stoves have been installed and are currently in use.
About 380,000 ha of land has been put under enclosures to promote natural regeneration of trees and grasses.
Wildlife is flourishing
Eritrea has a historic culture of involving communities in sustainable land management. The Greening campaign is taking advantage of this culture to reinforce land rehabilitation activities. Moreover, it noted that every Eritrean citizen has a right to have a land. However, the land is administered and managed by the Government for the benefit of the general public.
Tree planting is a good practice on catchment areas and save dams and diversions from siltation.
Improved stove is contributing to saving energy, labour and time.
Bee keepers are benefiting from the enclosures.
Farmland soil and water conservation is enhancing land productivity.
Many endangered wildlife are returning to their habitat and other new ones are emerging
The challenges encountering in applying this good practice are:
Inadequate resources to purchase farm tools, improved stove parts and tools and provision of awards.
Lack of proper technical tools to document and map the outcomes.
Low tree survival rate in catchments due to drought
Continuous community mobilization can make a difference in sustainable land management.
Awarding the exemplary farmers and institutions has a great influence to motivate others.
Continuous promotion of improved stoves minimizes tree cutting.
Expanding and protecting enclosures contributes to wildlife conservation.
• Community based land rehabilitation can make a great difference if properly managed and sustained.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Wildlife Authority, The Greening Campaign Management Committee and those who helped in the preparation of this write-up are highly acknowledged.
Heruy Asghedom, Ermias Solomon, Michael Berhane and Daniel Frezghi